The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.
Similar to the first stanza in the Tao Te Ching describing what I have learned from the class is a little bit like trying to describe what “qi” is . . . it is ineffable. My efforts in describing what I have absorbed has led me to examine (and share with you) what seems most important at this moment in my study and practice of QG and what I feel I can teach to my students with some clarity and possibly with the stirrings of an energetic transmission.
There comes with it the aspect of finding ways to blend Eastern and Western culture in the language and methods the information is shared. It is my perception that Western students do not come with the same eagerness to a Western teacher, teaching a Chinese practice, as they do to a Chinese teacher. Students from the West (including me) have our culture to overcome in understanding many of the subtle and not so subtle foundations and history of QG.
It is for this reason that I feel there is still so much to learn, I am continually returning to the beginning. My first qigong teacher was an American acupuncturist who taught much about TCM. Even though it has been over 10 years since I have studied with her, much of the information she shared I have not yet absorbed. I continue to absorb it as I learn more about ZQG in our class.
During our online class I became aware that I had very little context for ZQG and that, that view lent ZQG a kind of magical, mystical nature which I now realize was not quite correct, at least not for me. So I started at the beginning again and looked at the origins of QG. Understanding the basic Five Branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine (food, herbs, qigong, tui na and acupuncture) and sharing this information with my students seems important to provide a context, to show the root of TCM as QG and how it fits into a whole, effective healing system which has evolved over thousands of years.
This awareness can be eye-opening when someone is trying to change their reference system from a Western medicine perspective only, to embrace QG. It helps to know that there is a whole, huge body of knowledge to back up QG and ZQG, and quite importantly that the importance of food, herbs, etc make up the whole (until we are masters of qi, of course).
During our online class, through your kind and flexible teaching, the process of a qigong practice began to formulate in my mind. I have outlined it as follows and have shared this with my students as another way of putting the practice in context of one’s life and to give encouragement for the path ahead. It seems to help with understanding the potential mystery of a qigong journey. It has helped me in providing a more stable foundation for myself and my students.
Back to the Beginning: A Fundamental Qigong Journey . . . Where the mind goes, qi follows . . .
Turning point - Once a person makes the decision to begin practicing QG the healing processes are set in motion—the desire for change towards wellness has begun, the healing power of the mind is engaged, and living a more conscious life begins. However, the practitioner is often unaware of the many aspects of life that will improve with QG practice.
Physical wellness is increased – Often people come to QG because of physical ailments where improvement has not been stabilized by other modalities. A sense of wellness on the physical level is usually noticed after the first practice and continues with subsequent practice sessions, although each practice is different. As the practitioner understands more about the importance of relaxation, so that qi and blood can flow freely, physical discomforts continue to lessen. All systems of the body, mind and spirit are nourished.
Visualizations and knowledge of the body – Visualizations can be helpful early on to give the mind something to focus on while doing the breathing exercises, yang qi, FECM and movements. Many practitioners embrace ZQG where other meditation practices have not been sustainable because visualizations provide help in quieting the mind.
After a time visualizations begin losing importance as the mind becomes more centered and can connect more quickly and easily with the “void essence”, the feeling of oneness, where all separation has melted away. Knowledge of the physical parts of the body in their healthy state can be helpful for some, by visualizing the area with stagnation as ‘normal now’. This knowledge provides a focus for the mind.
Reference system, perspective changes – Sometimes without realizing it, the way one looks at life begins to change, there is less judgment, anxiety and more clarity. However, conscious intention and focus on changing one’s perspective speeds up the process of creating a new perspective to experience life as easier and more enjoyable, with fewer worries. A willingness and fearlessness, coupled with compassion, to be conscious of thoughts can quickly reduce suffering during a transformational time.
Connection with all – Although we may start with focusing on one part of the body or mind for healing, with practice it becomes more and more evident that every part is connected and in fact one may become aware that it is not possible to separate physical disease from mental or spiritual activities. This can be an important realization as this is often understood that the entirety of the human is part of the entirety of the universe - alignment with oneness becomes clearer. The importance and profundity of simple exercises such as establishing the qi field, open/close, gather/release, out/in and transform become deeply meaningful.
Organs and emotions – One day we don’t get angry at some little thing that used to make us angry, we notice another change, organs and emotions are balanced more of the time, we may notice a harmony with nature, the cycles of our body, the seasons, family and friends. This supports even deeper relaxation, harmony within and without become the normal way of being. Compassion for oneself and others increases in many ways.
Qi reactions – As practice progresses, qi reactions may be more mild, but their ‘severity’ isn’t as important, the knowledge is more secure that balancing and harmony are continuing allows for greater ease in navigating any reactions. Trust is easier to access.
Wisdom is always available – More confidence builds in knowing that wisdom is always within the qi field (and ourselves), that with patience we can have fewer doubts that ‘all is well’. Less effort is needed for all aspects of life, trust becomes natural. We are content without any external reason.
Cultivating the mind is the true practice – It is evident that the exercises/movements are actually not the most powerful aspect, physical healing is not the end result, it is more like a beneficial side effect of the practice . . . we let go more and more into that place of allowing and connecting. Essentially we come back to the beginning, we realize that as when we first engaged our mind and intention to begin practicing QG we have continued to do that all along . . . the circle is complete, again. Hun Yuan Primordial qi is omnipresent, Ling Qi is penetrating and effective, Tong Heart and minds’ intention is immediately realized.
Summary of Most Beneficial Information:
• Yang qi and the importance of conserving qi and resting finally makes sense! In our Western culture resting does not get high marks, we are encouraged and trained to keep busy all the time. Through your gentle guidance and repetitive encouragement to practice yang qi I feel stronger on all levels and the practice of yang qi has become a refuge for me.
• FECM is also a refuge, and this practice has been very effective for me. Connecting the emotional aspect to physical ailments is so important and is actually comforting when one realizes that some ‘crazy’ thoughts can simply be a result of organ imbalances. FECM provides a simple method to overcome many types of stagnation and imbalance. Practicing FECM requires strong focus and desire for change, however, it becomes much easier and enjoyable with continued practice.
• ZBE has been very powerful as well, however, much more challenging for me to practice. I found that when I increased the amount of practice time I would get strong reactions so I decided to stay with shorter practice times in the beginning so that I could continue my daily life more easily...I believe you said that we could balance the amount of practice with how one feels, this helped me realize that the practice of ZBE is one of compassion and therefore I tailored my practice schedule accordingly...
• Understanding the role of the 3 energy centers is another very important part of the puzzle in understanding how energy is stored and supported in the body. This information was presented in a way that was clear and seems in line with TCM, which is helpful.
• Consciousness is what it’s all about! Through my students I have learned that helping someone change their mind can be a slow and challenging process, especially for beginners. However, it is clear that QG often draws people who have practiced other traditions that have the same or similar teaching, although they my not have the scientific base that ZQG has. Thank you . . .
Again, it seems I am continually coming back to the beginning of the most basic teachings and realizing new ways to understand them. Sometimes the study of ZQG and M. Liu’s teachings look like a three dimensional ball of ying/yang symbols moving/turning in all directions, showing a new aspect at every turn with always more to discover, but never coming back to the same place and always going back to the beginning (like a mystifying riddle).
I can see that to thoroughly learn the QG information, through understanding the theory and through the practice, and to be able to share the information with clarity and compassion can take many more years. At the same time I am aware that when the information is needed it can be found within the wisdom of the simple practices. There is so much more that I could remember and write about, however, now I’d like to express my gratitude for your dedication in teaching us, for your successful efforts at bringing me new insights into my own consciousness, and for the ways you role modeled how to be an effective and kind teacher with integrity. . . thank you!