Remaining present for what is. This is simply what Qi Gong is. Remaining present while paying attention to what is— with a stable, clear, and open intent.
Qi Gong is a sacred mind/body/spirit connection that is rooted in ancient Chinese shamanic culture. Qi Gong evolved out of a time when humans and Nature were recognized as inextricably interconnected and this interconnection was actively engaged with. For example the qualities of water flowing in the river in it’s many forms of bubbly, deep, forceful, and trickling were also found within the sense of being of those ancient humans.The very nature of water itself was the very nature of being human. Those same qualities could not be separated from their daily thoughts, feelings, actions and interactions with All That Is.
All That Is included the elements within Nature (fire, water, wood, metal (mineral), and earth) as well as all the plants, animals, humans, and ‘other than human’ beings. The cosmos, celestial bodies and all the cycles that ran simultaneously through Life were also included .
ANCIENT ONENESS CONNECTION
During these times, our ancient ancestors in many different cultures all over the world knew this interconnection with All That Is. They realized the cycles that were manifest in Nature were also manifest in the cosmos and in humans. The complex, diverse, rich and vibrant web of ‘livingness’ of All That Is was embodied and held sacred in all moments of their lives. All moments, things, and creatures were imbued with Spirit.
This recognition of the ‘oneness’ inseparable existence of humans’ inner nature with Mother Nature just ‘was the way it was’ —sort of like water is to a fish. During these times, this universal truth was present in many cultures around the world. It became the basis for the longstanding wisdom inherent in many indigenous Nature based systems as well as at the core of all of the worlds’ great spiritual traditions. This was before the focus on duality and/or patriarchy became prominent.
The nuances of each tradition obviously became shaped by the individual cultures surrounding this universal truth. On the Asian continent, there became ways to access this interconnection for healing, for defensive purposes, and for connection with the inner and outer environment (i.e. for spiritual connection and evolution). These ways to access Life became embodied over thousands of years of practice, as Qi Gong.
SHEN IS DIFFERENT THAN QI
The ancient Chinese shamanic cultures termed the Universal life force vitality or energy that animates All That Is as Qi. Qi is born of the union of Jing and Shen, particularly Yuan Shen (Original Spirit). Jing is dense matter in form (we call it body). Shen is spirit. When they unite, Qi is born.
Qi can be felt, connected to, communicated with and refined infinitely for any intent (as above–for healing, defense or for spiritual connection). Most importantly it was recognized that life’s energy (Qi) moves and changes constantly and manifests differently from one moment to the next. Life as the ancients’ knew it manifested as a harmonious, dynamic, continually alive interweaving process.This interwoven Web of Life ran through the cycles of the Cosmos, Earth, humans, and the interrelationships between All That Is.
This living interconnected web was followed, embodied, studied, communed with, honored and co-created with for healing and spiritual connection. This process became known as Qi Gong. Gong means ‘study of or cultivation of’ and Qi is the vital life force running through all. Qi Gong: cultivation or study of Qi.
Yuan Shen (Original Spirit) was recognized to have specific different manifestations in Mother Nature that correlated with physiological processes within a human and directly with human nature. The major elements and cycles of Mother Nature were recognized directly in an individual human’s complex physical, mental and spiritual processes. These two complex, and living dynamic webs of interrelationships (Mother Nature and Human Nature) kept a harmonious dynamic living (constantly moving, transforming and transmuting) for health, vitality, and connection to All That Is.
Connecting to the living Spirit in all things kept this complex web of relationships ‘alive’. Everything was imbued with Spirit. These Spirits had specific names and qualities and had completely embodied relationships between Mother Nature and Human Nature.
Each of Nature’s major elements and their qualities had a corresponding living relationship in the human. This relationship was an energetic one and not one that only existed in the anatomical part of the human it was named by. The five major solid human organs housed a specific manifestation of Yuan Shen, each with it’s own name and complex qualities.
These relationships are what authentic Daoist Medicine is based on (not a westernized version where the Spirit of the Method has been ‘removed;). This is also what the ultimate intent of a Qi Gong practice is for: alchemy. Alchemy— the spiritual connection, healing and transmutation for a ‘return’ to Original Spirit, a co-creation with Yuan Shen (Original Spirit).
FIVE SPIRITS AND FIVE ELEMENTS
The qualities and interrelationships are very complex and too complicated for this post. I will cover them only briefly here. The energy channels are only named by a solid organ. The energy relationships extend way beyond the anatomical organ listed. When the word heart is used it means heartmind—there is no separation.
The heart spirit is called Shen and is our knowledge and desire. It is linked to the red bird, the element fire, the color red, the season summer, the emotion excitement, the taste bitter and the heat of the day (around noon time).
The lung spirit is called Po and is our animal nature or aliveness. It is linked to the white crane, the element metal (you can think of it also as mineral), the color white, the season autumn, the emotion sadness, the taste spicy, and the time of late afternoon.
The liver spirit is called the Hun and is our imagination. It is linked to the blue/green dragon, the element wood, the color green, the season spring, the emotion anger, the taste sour, and the early morning hours.
The Spleen/Stomach spirit is called the Yi and is our intention. It is linked to the Bear, the element Earth, the color yellow, the season Late Summer, the emotion anxiety or worry, the taste sweet and linked to the times after we eat.
The kidney spirit is called the Zhi and is our will. It is linked to the turtle, the element water, the color indigo, the season winter, the emotion fear, the taste salty, and the late evening time period.
Please remember these organ spirits are our direct connection to All That Is. We are inseparable. The energy flow, harmony and balance is co-created by many energetic relationships and complex linkings between Mother Nature and Human Nature.
Here are some examples. Our heart fire creates our desire and knowledge as well as our passion and warmth and maintains the health of our small intestine and blood vessels. Our lung metal energetic system is related to our clarity and sharpness as well as our potential coldness and maintains the health of our large intestine, skin, hair and nose. Our liver wood energetic system is also related to our vision (both our direct vision of seeing with our eyes and also our wisdom or insight) and maintains the health of our tendons and gall bladder. Our spleen/stomach earth system is related to our continuousness, our steadfastness, our groundedness, our ability to transform and absorb, and maintains the health of our muscles and our lips. Our kidney water system is related to our trustworthiness, our perseverance, our strength (both of our bones as well as ourselves) and maintains the health of our urinary bladder, teeth and ears.
Lake Aititlan, Guatemala—Finding Earth Within Water
QI GONG AS A PRACTICE
Qi Gong is a way of finding connection to the spirit (our inherent health and vitality) that lives within us inseparably from the spirit within All That Is. Qi Gong is a “noticing within” practice. It is a way of learning to regularly communicate with one’s own internal wisdom. The quality of the relationships of the five elements and the five organ spirits is what determines our health, our vitality, and our spiritual connection and evolution.
All diseases, imbalances and difficulties come from a disharmony at the Yuan Shen level (and it’s specific manifestation–Shen, Po. Hun, Yi and Zhi) first. Following is then a disturbance at the Qi level and finally ‘dis’ease or disease shows up at the body level (known as the Jing level).
When Shen and/or Qi are healthy, then the complex living web of life flows easily and harmoniously. We connect then with the nature of reality as it is. Just like in Mother Nature, there are many complex cycles that keep a dynamic living harmonious balance.
One of these cycles is the cycle of generation (or life cycle). This cycle goes like this: water nourishes wood, wood feeds fire, burned wood turns to ash and creates earth, earth disintegrates into metal and metal (mineral/rock) holds water. Another is the cycle of destruction (or control cycle). This cycle goes like this: water controls fire, fire melts metal, metal cuts wood, wood contains earth and earth limits and controls water. These cycles and many others represent some of the complex relationships living within All That Is.
Qi Gong cultivation or practice uses meditation, visualizations, breath work, and specific movement sequences called forms to explore the state and quality of Qi and the connection to All That Is. Different Qi Gong forms create different intents to connect to different organ systems and their complex interrelationships.
Cultivating practice enables a felt sense discernment between harmony and disharmony of Qi to be recognized. Qi Gong forms can provide deep benefit if practiced and studied with an open heartmind over a period of time.
First there is an intent to create a state of calmness or quiet. This is done through specific movement sequences being studied with an inward focus. Over time this calmness leads to a stability of the heartmind. A stable and quiet heartmind arises as the form is studied with a clear intent and an open, yet precise focus. With further practice this stability creates a sense of stillness.
When this state is reached with regularity, a multitude of wisdoms, insights, clarity and spontaneous wise embodied knowings arise. These are intimate, direct felt-sense experiences of interconnection to All That Is. They lead to health, vitality, wisdom and compassionate action in the world within relationships to oneself, others, the environment, and to Spirit.
Qi Gong is not a series of movements or exercises to stretch or strengthen in any sort of linear or separatist way of thinking. Qi Gong is a powerful body/mind/spirit practice that can be done by anyone. It only takes an open heartmind, a clear intent to participate with your own internal world and a commitment to practice–in the present moment.
The intent through Qi Gong forms is to connect with specific qualities in Nature. These could be qualities that are observed in the elements or animals of Nature and are manifested as Qi within. The movements of a form can draw out any of those qualities. They are to be done with an ever-deepening study of internal sensations and an intent to match the studied qualities.
QI GONG AS POETRY
The ultimate intent of Qi Gong practice is to have energetic alignment with Yuan Shen. As human animals, we are here to learn to have the desire and knowledge of the heart (Shen) drop through our animal nature of the lung (Po). This is done with the intent of Spleen (Yi) entwined to liver imagination (Hun). We finally connect to our kidney will (Zhi) and lead our lives from a wise place of compassionate and connected action.
Otherwise our heart desire and knowledge leads us on a separate path of living, disconnected from knowing our innate interconnection to All That Is. This path leads to harmful actions: to ourselves, others, and to our planet. This disconnected path has the potential to lead to our destruction as a species (and many other species along with us).
In our times, we have a choice to make as a species. Qi Gong allows engagement with a vibrant alchemical mixing of earth yin and sky yang to create a sacred passion for living– and knowing that living in an interconnected way.
Join Carrie’s upcoming Qi Gong in Seattle class starting on April 1, 2013. See Feldenkrais and Qi Gong Offerings in Seattle for details. You can also contact Carrie at (206) 459-1773 or firstname.lastname@example.org.