Tag Archives: Taiji 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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Y’all Come: Qigong Classes This Fall

for blog face and handsMother Nature may yet throw us a curve ball, but it definitely feels like fall is coming. My body thinks so; my garden thinks so; my newspaper is full of ads for back-to-school supplies. And so it’s time to write about the qigong classes I’ll be teaching in Redmond, WA this fall.

I’ll be teaching two types of qigong—Taiji Qigong at the Redmond Senior Center and Yi Ren Qigong, Level I, in the classroom at the Vitamin Life store on Redmond Way. I’ll also be giving a free presentation at Vitamin Life at noon on Saturday, Sept. 13, during which I’ll talk about qigong in general and Taiji Qigong and Yi Ren Qigong in particular.

Some details on all of the above:

Free public presentation on qigong at Vitamin Life in Redmond, noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13:

I’ll explain what qigong is and why I think it’s worth doing. And we’ll do some Yi Ren Qigong, since qigong should be experienced, not just talked about. Vitamin Life is at 15830 Redmond Way—and there’s no need to pre-register for this presentation; just come.

Taiji Qigong (aka Shibashi Taiji Qigong) at Redmond Senior Center, ongoing classes, 6 p.m. Tuesdays and 10 a.m. Wednesdays:

Taiji Qigong is a relaxing, flowful system of qigong based on Yang-style taiji. It consists of 18 movements which I bookend with an energetic warm-up and close-down and accompany with music. Continue reading

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Up or Down?

Here’s a joke—a groaner, actually, especially if you’ve done much taiji and know precisely whereof the joke speaks:

How many taiji players does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: 100. One to change the bulb and the other 99 to say: “That’s not the way we do it at my taiji school.”

Peter Wayne tells this joke in “The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi” by way of explaining that there’s enormous variation within the practice of taiji. Even the simplest movement can be done many different “right” ways.

Sigh.

I was reminded of his joke this week as I re-read his book and a book on qigong in preparation for classes I’m teaching this fall.

Let’s take the movement that opens and closes the Yang 108 form, which I know as “Raise and Lower Arms.” The movement is part of Wayne’s taiji fundamentals program, where it’s called “Raising the Power”; it’s also the first of the 18 movements comprising the Shibashi Taiji Qigong system, which is described in Chris Jarmey’s book, “Taiji Qigong,” where it’s called “Beginning Movement.” Continue reading

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