It all started at the end of yoga class. I was in the resting phase of Savasana when my favorite yoga teacher told us, “now imagine breathing light into your left hand, up your arm, and then down your right arm and out your right hand.” I was all relaxed, open — and it worked! I felt an amazing rush of energy up the left and down the right; then reversed the direction, and bounced it back and forth from right to left and back again, until savasana ended.
Yoga was my gateway drug into Qi Gong. In the years since that yoga class, I’ve been lucky enough to find a true Qi Gong grandmaster and to learn how to connect to the universal energy around us, pull it in, concentrate and manipulate it. How to sense it in myself and in others, clean out toxic energy and pull in clean pure new life force energy (chi) for healing. And I began to have mystical experiences which, as a long time corporate lawyer and atheist, I would have scoffed about for the first half of (this) lifetime.
Qi Gong is a 3,000 year old tradition developed and practiced by millions of people in China and around the world, which means “energy work”. It’s closely related to tai chi, acupuncture, reiki, yoga and meditation, and comes down to one principle: your mind is incredibly powerful! We grow up in Western culture thinking that we can only control our environment with our physical movements. But in fact your mind, if you surrender your beliefs and unleash your imagination, can and will drive the life force energy which surrounds and vitalizes us and all other living things.
One of the oldest branches of Qi Gong arose with the Daoist monks in China. The Daoists for the last few thousand years have worked with three bodies: your Physical body; your Energy body (detectable by Western science as an energy field about 1-2 inches around you); and your Spiritual body (your awareness, about 6 feet around you–the same field which allows you to sense when someone is walking up behind you). Imagination plus Sensation produce your Energy body; Intention and Attention produce your Spirit body.
So in Qi Gong, you can use Imagination–the creation of something not there until your mind forms it; the Sensation of light prickling energy/warmth/mist, Attention to focus on the energy around you; and Intention to move it and concentrate it.
In a relaxed, open state, your mind and breath pull energy in from the Earth, which is a huge reservoir of chi, and from the Heavens (the rest of the Universe around us), into the soles of your feet, the palms of your hand, and through the nose, mouth, and energy centers or chakras running from head to perineum (and a little beyond those outside the body). The energy travels along what the acupuncturists call meridians, or channels of energy throughout your physical body. And you concentrate the chi in your lower abdomen (the “lower Dan Tien”), where not coincidentally our sexual organs lie and life is created from all the chi which women and men store there.
Breathing, Intention, and Gentle movement–just like Yoga and Tai Chi–help us manipulate and concentrate energy in Qi Gong.
The result? Perhaps the most significant, quickest result is the purging of old bad memories and traumas, giving you a happier and mentally more balanced outlook. We all have mental and emotional baggage; Qi Gong is a superbly effective method of dragging that out of our tissues and expelling those old traumas as well as recent stresses. Then you will feel a lightness and openness of the body, physical healing and averting of disease, as your immune system and overall vitality brighten up. Finally, you will feel a much greater sensitivity and connection to the energy of other living things around us; projection of chi (used by advanced martial artists to throw opponents across the room with a gentle physical nudge); and even spiritual meditations which can lead to mystical skills. Skilled practitioners can make incense smoke spin in one direction then the other; the same for mylar helium balloons. You can remove alcohol from a shot glass of rum, push and pull other people from 6 feet away without touching them. And you learn to live a more virtuous and spiritual life, since positive clean chi creates a higher vibrational state which is incompatible with dark energy and behaviors.
It’s an amazing tradition, now more than ever helping us connect and heal in these difficult days.
Len Shen is a retired environmental lawyer and corporate chief compliance and ethics officer, who teaches Qi Gong online while helping to raise two granddaughters with family in Colorado and California. He has been practicing tai chi, yoga, reiki (Levels 1 and 2), meditation and qi gong for nearly four decades. For more information, see www.twotreesqigong.org, where his nonprofit donates all net proceeds of his semi-weekly online qi gong classes to Ukraine, via www.hearttoheart.org.