I just ran across this explanation of the different types of chi (qi) in Ken Cohen’s book The Way of Qigong. It was an aha moment for me, clarifying for me WHY daily practice is so important. I wanted to synthesize it here as writing often helps me to wrap my brain around something that I want to absorb into my being!
There are many sources of chi or life force energy. Our main sources of chi are breath/air, food/nutrition, and the chi we are born with that comes from our parents, our genetics, also known as our constitution. Ken Cohen calls this personal original chi.
There is also an original chi that is a gift of the universe, “the primal energy of life, the creative and omnipresent power of the Dao”, yuan chi. Cohen calls this transpersonal original chi.
In addition to what we are born with, we can supplement our original life force energy with what’s called “post-natal chi”. We can eat well and breathe well. We can tap into the chi in nature and learn to harmonize with the energy available to us from Mother Earth. And, we can practice qigong. The practice of qigong movements and meditations cultivates and enhances our personal original chi. This post-natal chi/energy, however, is easily dissipated, so that’s why a daily qigong practice is strongly encouraged. That daily cultivation of life force energy will enhance our health, energy, and well being.
On this Summer Solstice Eve, our Qigong practice group focused on making a commitment to a daily practice. It’s so difficult to fit one more thing into our busy lives, and new habits are hard to establish. But to get the true benefits of this healing art, it must become a part of your daily life on this beautiful planet. It will catalyze that connection of mind, body, and spirit to the beauty and energy of all life on this earth and beyond. Here’s the simple formula for beginning this daily practice. These instructions assume you have been taking classes but are mainly just practicing during class time.
Set your intention; make a commitment to integrate a 10 minute practice into your day. Decide on 1 movement (or 2 if you must 🙂 to focus on for the first 30 days and the best time of day to make this happen. I recommend first thing in the morning, before your mind distracts you with other things (personal experience :).
Vertical Alignment: Straighten your spine. Drop your hips and legs into the earth. Feel your feet on the earth and open to the earth’s energy. Then, notice and imagine the space above your head and then expand out to the universe. Allow the energy of the universe to flow through you. Enjoy, relax.
Horizontal Alignment: Notice, imagine the space in front of you, then expand out beyond the mountains, oceans, horizon. Now to the back, left, right.
Heart focus: Bring your focus to your heart, allow your heart to open and to connect to its true, deepest purpose–for healing of self, others, the planet. Connect with others of good heart who are also using their energy to heal self, others, the planet.
. Intention: Take a moment to truly feel and articulate your specific intention for practice. Our collective intention is for health, happiness, and deep fulfillment of life.
Do your chosen practice for 5 minutes, increasing the time as you can. Keep your mind in your body, using the visualizations we are learning in class.
Integrate: After practice, do a few lift chi up pour chi down movements, then slowly bring your hands to your navel, your dantien, grounding, integrating, enjoying the energy you have been cultivating. Then feel your feet on the earth, grounding and centering on the earth. And feel the spaciousness around you. Slowly move your body and gently open your eyes. Bow in gratitude to the chi field, masters/teachers, practitioners, and to your own inner teacher. Or just say thank you, especially to that inner teacher that is encouraging you to begin this daily practice!
You just have to love paradoxes, which seem to be prevalent in trying to understand the chi field, God, the universe, energy, love. There are no shortcuts in qigong. And here are four of them.
Any qigong practice you will do consistently because you love it.
These are shortcuts because you can practice them just about anywhere, with as little or as much time as you can muster. The key is to start and to make them a part of each day. What I find after consistent practice is that my body and my consciousness will remind me to practice throughout the day. When I have scarce time in the morning, my inner qigong coach will wake me up just a little earlier to make sure I practice.
It sounds so simple, but it’s a practice taught by many Qigong Grandmasters and is from a Daoist tradition. You can do this in a few minutes or take your time. My favorite way to do the inner smile is to think of someone or something that makes me smile–like a beautiful waterfall, a boogy boarding moment of catching the perfect wave, or most often, my two gorgeous sons. I smile on the outside! I then imagine the sun coming up over the White Mountains, and coming slowly, slowly towards me. That beautiful, life giving light then comes into my brain through the place between my eyebrows known as the third eye. The light, the smiles, fill my brain, then flow down into my heart, filling my heart with light, smiles and love and then into my precious organ systems, into my cells, all over my body. My body is filled with light and smiles and love. I am light, I am smiles, I am love. This practice fills me with gratitude for having this precious time on earth.
I have a couple blog posts here on Haola, so if interested, check those out. I use haola like a so be it, it is what it is, ah, there it is, etc. Its essence is “all is well and getting better”. All is well on a universal plane, in the absolute and getting better on an earthly plane, on a personal plane, on a relative plane. The universe evolves, the earth evolves, we evolve when we practice wisdom and healing and love.
This is an exercise you should really learn in a class or on a retreat as you want to be very careful of your knees, back, etc. There are specific details for descending as well as ascending. It’s a very powerful practice that builds endurance in your hips, the muscles surrounding your knees, and works your core as well because you use a pelvic tilt, basically, to stand up from the squat. If you do google this and give it a try, remember to start slowly, with just a micro-squat, if you will.
Your Favorite Practice
If you have a favorite practice, that is your shortcut to building a daily practice because you, your body, mind, heart and cells will want to do this every day. Find one small practice and build from there. Spinal bone marrow? Hip rotations? Chen Chi? Lift Chi Up Pour Chi Down? For more information to connect with online classes and instructors in your area, go to The Chi Center website.
Human beings have the skill, the ability, the instinct to visualize, to imagine, to create. This ability is used in many aspects of modern life. For example, athletes contemplate their perfect performance, “programming” their bodies to respond not only to external practice but to internal visioning. Job seekers imagine answers to interview questions and practice them while visualizing a calm, confident demeanor.
There is creative and transformative power in visualization and imagining. Our minds, bodies, souls and spirits respond to this practice. Visualizing spaciousness, an ocean of light, our energy bodies, connection and flow is one of the central practices of Wisdom Healing Qigong. Qigong is an ancient, alchemical practice; what other ancient practices embody visualization?
Rock art fascinates me, and there is so much near my home. What if rock art was an ancient form of visualizing the energy flow you wanted to see coming your way? As I create this artwork, I’m thinking of sheep, cultivating the energy to bring them nearby.Send some big horn sheep this way! I do wonder. Visualization is a powerful practice in energy medicine, and likely has been a powerful practice for humans all over the world back to ancient times.
Prayer is the same, a focused envisioning and calling for healing energy. We have an intention, we connect to the Source Energy, to The One Above, to Father Spirit, Master of Breath, Creator, to Jesus, to God. We often use images and objects when we pray–statues, holy cards, prayerbooks, paintings, sage, feathers, candles, and rosary beads. Images, like etchings on rock, hold our focus and make our intentions imaginable.
In qigong, we hold the image of health and healing in our mind’s eye, the rock art of the mind and heart. When we practice the cultivation of energy in Wisdom Healing Qigong, we envision the golden chi ball, the ocean of chi, the rivers of light in our bodies. We use that energy flow to dissipate blockages to bring about physical, emotional and spiritual health for ourselves, for others, for the world. As we practice, we embrace intention and imagine health, energy and connection with the universe. We chisel into our minds the intention and envision the healing outcome. We get the picture! 🙂
Breathing is the rhythm of life. With our breath, we exchange energy with the universe. We open and receive, exhale and give. Our breath is the energetic exchange with the breath of the universe. This energetic exchange is the the foundation of life and the foundation of our qigong practice.
In order to optimize this exchange, this dance of breath, our bodies need to be relaxed. In Wisdom Healing Qigong, we don’t focus on the breath, we relax deeply by focusing into our bodies with movement. That intentional focus and relaxation causes our breath to flow more deeply and then breath naturally flows with the movement. When we add sound to the movement, such as the Haola chant (all is well and getting better!), our breath becomes even deeper, our lungs open up and sing with the dance of our slow moving connection with the universe.
Our breath is made possible by plant life on this earth. During photosynthesis, plants produce oxygen. Plants are the only source of oxygen in our atmosphere. Of course, I learned this in grammar school, but as I just read this again, I was flabbergasted, I never really appreciated this fact! Good golly! No wonder we love plants so much, that we give flowers as a sign of love and appreciation, that we marvel at autumn leaves and get lost in the hug of a tree. I will go forth from this moment to even more appreciate and thank and sing praises of our beautiful gardens, forests, meadows, grasslands, prairies, deserts and the streams and lakes and rain fall that provide the water for sustenance of plant life. How much I’ve taken for granted, no more!
So breathing is a give and take rhythm with our universe, a reciprocity with nature. We take in the oxygen that plants produce during their photosynthesis, and we breathe out carbon dioxide that plants use in their respiration. Nature provides the model for reciprocity in the biological process of breathing in and breathing out. The rhythm of the breath, found in every life form as well as in every larger community in which living beings participate, provides a powerful model for human decisions and actions in every arena of life. By copying the rhythm of the breath, humans can learn from the wisdom of nature’s economy to revolutionize our relationships with one another and with the larger-than-human world (Journal of Sustainability Education).
We too often think of ourselves as individual beings with our own thoughts, feelings, politics, struggles, challenges and loves. On a much deeper level, this reciprocity of breath with the universe connects us all intimately whether we like it or not. In these challenging political times, how do we use the reality of this oneness to work for the good of this planet and all life and energy herein? This is an essential question for our times. I suggest that to begin with, we revolutionize the relationship with our own heart, body and mind, contemplate our soul and spirit connection to the universe, the source energy, the energy field of love and go deeper into what we have in common with all life on this planet. From there, we can take action to protect this precious life and planet, that action originating from a place of love and connection deep within us. With each breath.
I love Neil deGrasse Tyson. I have heard at various times in my life that we are made of stardust, but when Neil deGrasse Tyson explains it, I think, yeah, that makes sense. Conceptually, I get it. But it wasn’t until my Wisdom Healing Qigong retreat in October 2016 that I really got it–I embodied stardust and felt this to the depths of my mind, heart, soul, body and spirit. And that’s from Mingtong and his energetic transmission and teaching. Mingtong is the Neil deGrasse Tyson of energy work! During the retreat and often even now back in the “real world,” I feel the connection with the stars, with the universe, with divine energy–and I’m not afraid of impermanence, not afraid of death, not afraid…not always, but I know the possibility is there that I can live a fearless, soulful life every moment. Sometimes I don’t feel that embodiment, but I have faith, trust, belief that as I continue my practices and connect more consistently with the Chi Field and Source Energy, God, that I will come to an understanding deep within my being of who I am and my place in the evolution of hearts and souls on this planet Earth. I’m getting glimpses now after a few years of Qigong practice, and those glimpses are coming more and more often. Sometimes I can even use the word embodied and understand what that means. Yay!
So look out at our wonderful Milky Way, take a few moments to gather the stars into your minds and hearts. Connect with the absolute wonder of the universe each and every day. Imagine the light and energy in your hearts, souls and spirits. See the stars as your brothers and sisters (Brother Sun, Sister Moon, as St. Francis would say). Wonderful human beings, you are Stardust. You have come to this earth to bring light and hope to the evolution of humanity. Stand up. Shine. Vote. Take action for love, justice, and peace. And then, to Stardust you shall return, knowing the seeds you’ve planted on this earth will someday, and even right now this very moment, bear the fruit of truth, love, justice and peace. Haola. Aho. Aloha. Amen.
You know how sometimes (or often) someone can articulate things just the way you wish you could have? My friend Cathy shared this blog post with me from Jonathan Fields. Here’s an excerpt. I echo his thoughts completely
“At least for now, a deeper voice is calling me to serve not by devoting myself to any one issue, but rather by enunciating a larger, well-defined ethos and cultivating a community built around that same set of values and beliefs that serves as a place of safety and support and nourishment for each person in the community to then deepen into whatever specific manifestation of their voice most strongly calls them.
So, I make it clear.
I stand for love.
I stand for compassion.
I stand for kindness.
I stand for dignity.
I stand for respect.
I stand for equality.
I stand for community.
Those who stand for that same ethos will find companionship and support not just from and with me, but from and with the community built around this ethos. Holding this container, at least for this moment, is my primary devotion. It’s the place I feel I can be most of service, while also being most able to sustain myself physically and emotionally.”
So we will gather, share food, sacred fires, healing circles, walk labyrinths, sing, dance, hold each other, be real with each other, sink deeply into our hearts and work towards wholeness and more importantly, towards oneness. We will act when our hearts call us to action. We can no longer relax in complacency assuming someone else will do the work. It’s up to us to do the work, to take action embraced in love, beyond a click on a petition. It’s become more complex than that. But it’s simple really. Do the work of love. Wherever that takes you.