What is Qigong (Part 2)?
A SURPRISING DIVE INTO DEPTH
In the first part of this blog, we could see: what really matters, is how we practice. All depends on our inner movement. In the following part, I will try to specify what this inner movement is.
What matters is the movement of our mind
Qi Gong is not about body movements, as matter and movement are only visible forms of spiritual and energetic processes. Conscious Qi Gong practice heads for the mastery of this processes in order to be able to shape our lives and bodies. The key is mastering our mind: “Mastery of Qi is achieved through mastery of our consciousness.” (Dr. Pang Ming)
To get access, we need to understand well what our mind or consciousness is. Mostly, we identify it with all that fills our awareness: thoughts, feelings, needs and wishes, perceptions, convictions, beliefs etc.
Qi Gong, though, brings our mind back to what I experience as its very essence: attention.
Our mind ís attention.
Our consciousness is not the content, but the vessel. In conscious Qi Gong practice, we train the intensity, clarity and focus of our attention. The body movements are but a means: they help us to gather, to focus and to move our attention – and thereby our Qi.
Pure attention does not know the past; it is beyond cause and result. Attention does not know space and time. It is not confined to individual spaces; it can intermingle and establish strong collective fields. This is why attention can be such a strong source for healing. Conscious Qi Gong practice is magic by attention.
Practice slowly and witness how your attention moves first, how this generates a stream of energy that subsequently moves your body – just as a piece of wood is carried by a stream of water. Allowing for the awareness of this sequence brings about flowing movement (on the contrary, most injuries happen when attention does not precede and envelop our bodies).
The essential point is: Can we be totally in the moment, in what we do? Can we let go of all products of our mind – which the Eight Verses call ‘distracting thoughts’?
This seems challenging, but there is a royal path into this pure presence: love for what you do. Children do have it. And at your age, you will time and again drop into it: when you are immersed in doing something that touches your heart – which makes you forget time, space and yourself.
Remember and try on children’s mixture of dedication and playfulness, spiced with wonder.
- Do not be too serious. Do what you enjoy – and enjoy what you do (that is: doing it in a way that you can enjoy it). Joy is a mighty amplifier.
- Let go of concepts and plans. Just act and observe what happens. Let the process surprise you. Welcome also things going ‘wrong’ with wonder. That is what children do when they play.
- Do not try to be good. Forget about yourself and your progress. Surrender to your own process. Let things move you.
What we pay attention to, how we direct and focus our attention, what kind of attention we use to give – all this makes up our personality, impacts our bodies, and shapes our lives. And so it is the mighty lever by which we can transform all of them in a natural way.
This contradicts, though, our cultural paradigms:
- Attention is not perceived as a precious good; it is spilled, dispersed, and eroded.
- Inner growth is seldom conceived as bringing our mind back to its root (pure attention), but it is seen as improving its content; moreover, it is rarely understood as a gesture of allowing patterns to dissolve and a process of surrender, but rather as a matter of ambition and personal achievement; both concepts keep us enclosed in loops.
Our mind centers around intention
Attention has a direction – as has any movement of our bodies. What do we pay attention to – and why? It is what corresponds with what we want and what we long for. And when and why do we move our bodies? It is when we feel a need or wish and set out to meet it.
What makes move our bodies, what makes our lives develop, is ours needs, wishes and values – in one word: our intentions.
Consequently, the quality and impact of our conscious Qi Gong practice both depend on our intention: every single movement as well as the practice as a whole. It is about the intensity, clarity and power of our intentions.
This leads to a couple of recommendations:
- Intentions should be more than just a consciously set goal: they only develop their real power, if they resonate with deep longings and needs. You better take time to explore what you really and deeply want. Feel what is true. Think with your heart, as Chinese culture holds it. Be curious about it.
- Intentions should capture what we strive and long for, not what we hope to avoid. Avoidance gives no clear direction (‘away from’ does not picture ‘towards what’), and when fear leads, it mobilizes contracting energy. You better picture what you long for and want to arrive at.
Fighting illness by Qi Gong still pays attention to it, and brings you in the mode of combat and fear. This might work like the phenomenon anyone is confronted with who rides a bike or motor: focusing on an obstacle that you want to avoid will inevitably lead you to hit it, as movement follows the line of vision. You better focus on the space where you want to go, not paying attention to the hurdle – and so you will pass elegantly. Likewise, envisioning your life in health might bring about a crucial shift in practice and energy.
See here the meaning and power of ‘Hao La’: I am in good health.
- Intentions should be clear, not mixed or ambiguous. If I set the intention to have a good health, but unconsciously carry a weariness of life and a wish for deep rest in me – which I may find in death -, I will be surprised what Qi responds to: it is the whole conglomerate of my intention – and so I might get my rest. You better allow yourself to feel your intentions with all their incongruences, give them space and feel into them all – and step by step let the different voices arrange and find out what really matters to you. So you might discover that your longing for rest can be met within this life: by leaving certain circumstances or by incorporating more rest and stillness into you life.
- Real and powerful intentions are more than just words. They are not a solid statement. They are a vivid and complex image of our soul. You better dive into dreaming.
This differs radically from our culture’s bias. Mostly, we handle intentions as consciously set goals – and we use instruments and resources to reach them. This is why the use of affirmations is so popular – and levering your mind is called programming or engineering. Affirmations, though, are a kind of inner propaganda. They push us, whereas longings pull us, they force us, whereas longings open us.
Our spirit is much more than our thinking, and Qi Gong is not an instrument. We do not use Qi Gong, as we use a hammer to drive a nail into wood. Qi Gong takes and changes us.
Thomas de Neve