I never intended to write about qigong. For almost 30 years, I was a writer and editor for newspapers and other publications. To me, writing is work and something one does for money. Since retiring from writing 10 years ago, about all I’ve written is e-mails.
However, I am now training to teach a health-oriented form of qigong, Yi Ren Qigong, and the man who developed it, Dr. Guan-Cheng Sun, keeps saying we trainees should write about what we have experienced—and not just write, but also publish, whether on paper or online.
The subject came up again at a teacher training seminar when he announced that two members of the community had just had articles published in outside journals.
What a pity, I thought. I know how to write—or at least I’m not afraid of writing—but I don’t have anything to say.
Three days later, while doing qigong at home, it occurred to me that perhaps I did have something to say—something book-length.
I even had a title—“Qi: My Final Frontier”—an expression I’d coined when writing a blurb about myself for my 50th college reunion.
I began to write.
The process proved to be most interesting. I will not say easy, because writing is never easy. You have to get yourself to sit down in front of your computer and you have to start, and when you hit a hard patch, you have to keep going.
Beyond that, however, the book almost wrote itself. Sometimes it would become clear to me what I wanted to say and how to say it as I was writing; other times I’d be practicing qigong or I’d be out walking and I’d find myself writing in my head.
During the day, writing a book about my qigong experience often seemed like an inspired idea. I’d have to fight off fantasies about the book’s huge success, about appearing on “Oprah” and being played in the movie by Meryl Streep.
At night, I would think the book was ill-conceived, self-indulgent, and an incredible waste of my time and energy. My thoughts about it and me would be very dark.
My friend Lori, also a former journalist, suggested I write the book for myself, and not even think about whether it might ever be published.
I knew she was right, and I started trying to do that. And, indeed, I realized that writing the book was proving valuable to me in and of itself. I was becoming more clear about what my qigong journey had been and where it was headed.
However, I always felt I was writing “to” other people, not to myself. I was writing to people who thought, as I used to, that only someone with a hyperactive imagination would go chasing after something like qi, an energy which can barely be defined, let alone measured.
I had plenty of material. At my teacher Brendan Thorson’s urging, I’d been keeping a journal, and I had notes from all of Dr. Sun’s seminars. I’d taken notes because, with 30 years of experience interviewing people, taking notes came naturally—and besides, I’ve never trusted my memory
I read through the journal and through the notes, but in the end, I found what I wanted to say was in my head.
I wrote the book quickly. Partly that’s how I do things: I get an idea and act upon it, often without enough thought. But I also wanted to be done with it quickly because I do not like hanging around in my life as a reporter, and I do not like being in situations with other people where I have a hidden agenda. I told Brendan I was going to write a book, although I don’t think he thought I’d actually do it, anyway not anytime soon. I didn’t tell Dr. Sun, but there was a big enough gap between teacher training seminars that I was able to get it done before I attended another one. I did have three acupuncture sessions while I was writing, and a number of times found myself thinking I should ask or remember this or that for the book. Yuk.
Basically, this book is a slice of my life. It has an ending but no conclusion, because my study of qigong continues. I have benefitted from writing it. If someone else reads it and thinks, “Hmmm… qi… qigong… maybe there’s something there for me, too,” then I will be even more satisfied. No, let’s be honest. Then I will be thrilled.