Tag Archives: qigong

A Thought in the Middle of the Night….

Last night, at some point during my time in bed, I had a thought unlike any I can remember having in the middle of the night. And I’m quite sure it was, indeed, a thought, that I was asleep before and after but awake during, and that it wasn’t part of a dream.

The thought was that I actually did have a way to relate to the “Golden Flower” energy training program I pursued several years ago at the Institute of Qigong and Integrative Medicine (IQIM).

At the time, I was skeptical of the exercises that comprised the program. I felt little when I did them and couldn’t see any lasting effect.

The exercises involved putting the hands and fingers together in various mudras and then moving them up and down in front of the body to specific locations, thereby moving energy amongst the body’s internal energy centers. This process was said to form lasting energetic connections between the centers. Each exercise was different—different mudras, different patterns of movement to different centers—but they were all followed by a period of meditation where you were to rest your mind at a particular center.

There were doubtless reasons for the mudras used and the pattern of connections made in any given exercise, but it was never spelled out in terms I was able to understand. Nor could I remember, by the time we got to the meditation, which centers we’d connected, and once my hands had stopped moving, I felt nothing.

I stopped taking the seminars a couple of years ago; they seemed to be working for students who were more diligent and/or energetically gifted, but they weren’t working for me.

However, of late I’ve being doing some of the exercises during qigong practices with two friends, and because my friends find value in the exercises, I’ve thought from time to time that perhaps I should knuckle down and give “Golden Flower” another try.

We’re now getting to my mid-night thought about how I might relate to this advanced energy practice. But first:

I know that through practicing taiji, I have developed and continue to develop  energetic connections among the muscles and connective tissues of my physical body. On the surface, this might seem like a “well, duh.” But it took me years of doing both taiji and a taiji-esque qigong form to make or at least to begin to experience those connections as energy-integrated movement.

The qigong form was Taiji Qigong, which comprises 18 Yang-style moves, each repeated several or more times, with minimal footwork. One of the moves, which I know as Dragon Emerging from the Sea, consists of first one fist and then the other pushing straight forward from the waist, turning from being palm up at the waist to being palm down when extended. Now you can do this using and feeling only the muscles of your shoulder and arm—which is how I did it for probably hundreds of practices and how I know many others have also done it.

But one evening I noticed that as my fist twisted and moved forward, muscles in my abdomen were participating in the twist. I found this amazing. Later, I found I could feel the muscles in my leg participating as well. The sensation was subtle and smooth—more like doing qigong than a push-up or a crunch. And yet when I put my free hand on my abdomen, I could feel that my muscles were indeed moving, i.e., it was not my imagination, not some mental energy construct.

A taiji teacher once told me that the goal of taiji is for all of the movement to be integrated, with the lower abdomen energy center known as the dantian as its center. I understood what he meant, but only because I had experienced integration, at least partially if not everywhere all the time; I would not have understood it from his words alone.

My thought during the night—a thought seemingly out of nowhere with no conscious thought before or after—was that connecting energy centers by doing Golden Flower exercises might somehow be like developing energetic connections among muscles and connective tissue by doing taiji. This seemed like a major insight at the time—and actually, though it may sound simple, to “get” something of this nature at any hour of the day or night is a big deal in my book.

Hmmm…. I just paused to think that actually, the muscles and connective tissue of the body must already be connected energetically to some extent or we wouldn’t be able to move. The same must also be true of the energy centers within the body. So doing taiji or qigong is not like introducing people who have never met before; it’s about getting people who already work together to move to a higher, more effective level of collaboration that eventually becomes conscious—well, at least I hope it does because otherwise you’re flying on imagination and faith, and I’m not good at either.

Hmmm again… And what might this higher level of energetic integration be effective for? In the case of a punch issuing from a smooth flow of energy starting at my foot, I guess if I were inclined to engage in street fighting, I would “pack a powerful punch.” However, the promise of the Golden Flower seminars was significantly more grand: enlightenment—or at least some form of greater knowing.

My grasp of what I’m writing about is shaky. But one thing does seem clear—and I think it seemed clear during the middle of the night. If the process of making internal energy center connections is at all akin to the process of making physical body energy connections, one time through an exercise ain’t gonna do it.

One of my friends says that once you have done an exercise and made a connection, your body remembers and continues to process it. But I don’t think so, at least not for me. I think I will probably have to choose one exercise and do that exercise over and over and over again to even hope of having an ah-hah moment like I did with my fist. Perhaps after that, other connections, and/or awareness thereof, would come on board faster, as did happen with physical movement.

For now, what I have is a concept I didn’t have before—and some wonderment that it came to me in the middle of the night….


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When last I posted, I felt so serene, so hopeful that perhaps I truly was on a spiritual path.

Now, I am anxious, distracted, and frequently in doubt.

Perhaps it is spring, which has sprung with a vengeance where I live, with record temperatures expected all week. Daoism and Traditional Chinese Medicine hold that changes of season can be challenging, and that spring is a time of rising energies, new growth and new endeavors. Perhaps somewhere in the reptilian core of my brain, a voice is saying, “It’s spring, it’s time to procreate!”—while the entire rest of my brain is screeching “You’re 76! No babies for you!” That would certainly throw a person off.

I am continuing all my practices, and sometimes they are wonderful. In particular, I have been learning a Chen-style form called 13 Energies, which was presented as a taiji form but to my mind is simply exquisite qigong. I start doing it and immediately feel the most marvelous flows of energy, particularly grounding energy, which was in such short supply in my taiji and qigong for so long.

But seated meditation…. My mind is busy, busy, busy, sometimes productively, more often obsessively, and a number of times lately I have stopped short of when I intended, thrown off my shawl and said to myself, “That’s it, I’m done.”

Qigong is still settling, but I find myself more often turning to the humble craft of knitting, which I have taken up again. I used to knit complicated patterns, but now I do simple stitches and scarfs. I just want to knit and purl and handle beautiful yarn.

And I have so many questions, so much despair for myself and the world.

There was a major schism in a taiji/qigong school I greatly admired. I don’t know what happened, but I find myself thinking, “If they couldn’t get along, given all the taiji and qigong and meditation they have done, what hope is there for the rest of us.” I know this is probably faulty thinking, and really I don’t feel driven to practice qigong and meditation solely because I want to become a kinder and happier person, but, well, I really would like to become a kinder and happier person.

I have even entertained thoughts that perhaps we mess with our bioenergetic fields at our own peril and delude ourselves as to the value of the results.

And are my fancy-schmancy energy practices any better than my father’s keeping of ledgers of his every financial transaction? My sister recently found and sent me some of those old ledgers. The oldest encompasses his college years. He wrote down every penny he spent, such as what he paid for malted milk or going to the movies on dates with various girls.

He continued to keep income/expense ledgers throughout his life. He had a leather-topped desk in the corner of the dining room in the house I remember best, and he would sit there, working on his ledgers and paying bills. At the time, I thought of it as “his thing,” as I believe my mother did, fuss-budgety but harmless.

Now I think that perhaps his desk was his shrine, and that for him, precise accounting of his financial situation didn’t just provide a feeling of being in control but also was calming and mind-focusing in the same way that doing crossword puzzles, playing computer solitaire, journaling, and knitting are for me—all of which things may lead in the same general direction as more overtly spiritual practices like meditation and qigong. Well, no, maybe I take that back. Qigong definitely does have a different effect on my state of being than balancing my checkbook, although the latter is quite satisfying when the bank and I agree.

Meanwhile, of course, all this personal angst gets ramped up whenever I read the paper. Stories about climate change, the relentless march of technology and the latest Tweets from the White House make me worry that the world is headed for some sort of apocalypse and that my grandchildren are doomed.

Ah, yes…. It’s spring. My mind is fertile, and it’s running amok.

At least tulips are beautiful, and I love the soft, sweet green of unfolding leaves….

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Was I Crazy? Am I Still?

I am feeling bummed out, for lack of any better words. Like, what happened? What was I doing? What was I thinking? What was I hoping for?

I just read through my notes from a series of four weekend seminars that I took in 2013 that were called “internal cultivation,” which is the same as “nei gong” or “internal alchemy.” The seminars were based on the Chinese classic “Complete Method of the Spiritual Jewels” by Zhongli Quan, which detailed how to cultivate Human, Earthly and Spiritual Immortality and thereby become one’s authentic self.

Damned if I know what that means—but it does sound like something that would be good to achieve.

Those seminars included a lot of theoretical talk plus practice of qigong meditations designed to take one through 10 stages of cultivation. I sat through them all and did not once run from the room, although I often looked at the clock and counted the minutes until it was time for lunch or afternoon break or going home. I did the exercises and sometimes had interesting experiences. And I took copious notes. I am very good at taking almost verbatim notes. I was, after all, a reporter who took notes for a living.

After the seminar, I would spend hours transcribing my notes. I would reread them before the next seminar. Sometimes I would also practice the exercises between seminars, although, in truth, not very often. It just seemed too hard to figure out what I was supposed to do—which, of course, is not a good excuse. I just didn’t do it like I should have.

After the “Jewels” series, in 2014, I took another internal cultivation series based on “The Secret of the Golden Flower,” which offered another route to self-realization (again, whatever that might be, but surely a good thing). During the fourth of the weekend seminars, it was announced that, good news! There would be two more seminars than originally planned, because one of the translations of the original material had additional chapters.

I did not think “Oh, joy!” I thought “Oh, shit!” And, feeling tricked (for no defensible reason), I did not take the additional seminars.

It was all just way over my head. I might as well have been taking graduate seminars in quantum physics for all I got out of these seminars. That’s not entirely true. Every so often I would experience something in one of the exercises that would make me think I might experience more—which is why, I guess, I kept taking the next seminar for so long.

Even now, when I have a lot more hours of qigong practice under my belt, the stuff in my notes is still over my head. They are in English, in whole sentences, and I can understand the logic of some of the concepts. But in the end, it feels like I am reading words that have nothing to do with anything real, that may start with something real but end up as a sort of house of cards. In fairness, I had the same problem with the talk-talk-talk of Buddhism. Indeed, as I think of it, that was why I abandoned Buddhist practice and embraced qigong following my first, accidental experience of qi. At last! Something real!

At any rate, here I am. I have a qigong practice and a taiji practice but no teacher for either. I feel that these practices are rewarding and that they and I may be growing in some glacial but also perhaps inexorable way. But, particularly with the qigong, I feel like there must be something more, only I don’t know what it is or how to get there.

I spent several hours today googling around the Internet, looking for local teachers but concluding that they would all just want to teach me another form of either qigong or taiji. I don’t want to learn any more forms. I know enough forms to doubt there is a better one out there—whatever “better” might mean.

So I guess I will continue as I am, doing taiji and qigong occasionally with friends but mostly on my own, although I’ve been finding some guidance in “Jade Woman Qigong” by Master Liu He and, of course, the books and online materials of Damo Mitchell.

When I started writing this, I was in a funk which now feels much less funkish. I did not know that the words “glacial” and “inexorable” would pop into my head and that I would apply them to the changes I see in my taiji and qigong practices—although when I first typed “glacial” it was really just a cutesy way of saying “slow.”
But the thing about a glacier is that it moves. However slowly this may happen, it moves, it changes, not conforming to anyone’s wishes or plans, but obeying the conditions of nature. It is indeed inexorable.

I do realize that glaciers both advance and retreat. I guess I was thinking of an advancing glacier as being analogous to my taiji and qigong practices, although perhaps I flatter myself. Or maybe retreat would only happen if I stopped practicing, instead of stopping trying harder. Or maybe not….
Damn! I’m getting crazy with this. I guess it’s time to go do the laundry and play my flute. My practices will be what they will be, with or without an apt analogy.


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