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Monday, August 22, 2011

The Progressive Nature of Understanding in Qigong

Qi Magazine - Issue 35 (1998)

By Yu-Cheng Huang
Adapted to English by Robert Poile and Laurie Manning

Qigong is the study of energy in the universe, a person's relationship with that energy, and the use of energy to benefit health and increase longevity. The final goal is to be in balance and harmony with oneself and the universe. This ancient Chinese study requires perseverance and patience of students choosing it as a field of study. Qigong study is a process of gradual deepening. Deepening both in understanding and in the utilization of the energy itself. It is this path, one of a continual deepening of understanding that this article will discuss.

A first requirement in Qigong study is patience. Most practitioners find that while acquiring patience in their practice of Qigong, they also attain patience and balance in the living of their lives. Patience in Qigong is multidimensional; it is patience to believe in the practice, trust the method, to practice, to accept that what is happening in the practice is appropriate, etc. I often use as an example of patience an onion slowly being peeled and revealing itself in an unhurried and yet systematic manner. The Qigong "process," being slow and gradual in its nature, just as the peeling of an onion, requires, much patience of a person. Students are constantly in a rush. The assumption is that the knowledge and feelings associated with Qigong can be acquired quickly if the book is read from start to finish; the method is practiced 10 times a day; if an exercise is to be done once, then doing it 50 times is better; if the teacher reveals the "secrets," instant knowledge and ability will ensue, etc. However, Qigong cannot be viewed as a pill which can be popped, an instant or quick elixir. Like life's unfolding itself, Qigong does not give up or reveal its essence quickly, rather just as we evolve, so Qigong evolves through study and practice over time. That evolution differs from student to student. Each experience is unique and the energy (Qi), as the highest level doctor, is able to discern what the student's specific balance needs are and assist in fulfilling those needs.

Periodically a student has a "special" experience, they may have an insight (e.g. past life regression); a special reaction (such as being able to see inside their body or another persons'), a special manifestation of the energy (the ability to do something the person has not been able to do before); the resolution of a physical problem (cure of an imbalance/illness, weight loss, stress reduction) etc. These experiences are often a "glimpse" that Qigong is giving of its power. Single instances do not however mean that some final goal has been reached, they are merely milestones along the Qigong path. Only through long-term practice can the student learn to diagnose their imbalances, produce or replicate the experiences they need, and define and tap into the specific energy they require to create and maintain balance on an ongoing basis.

This does not imply that immediate rewards are not available from Qigong. The immediate positive reactions to Qigong are many - relaxation, cures for simple ailments, sleeping improvement, weight loss, and the list goes on. Some students have profound results quickly such as the cure of a major problem. However, for all the evolution of Qigong, while it may travel at different rates for different individuals, it is a gradual process. This article is written to encourage students to not "give up" or leave their practices, but rather to have determination and faith, as well as acceptance that the process works and that what is happening to them at the time is what should be happening, whether that experience is (at least in their perception) minor or major. 

For the beginner sensations (energy) are often felt in/on the skin or outside of the body. Then as experience and practice continue the sensations move inward progressing from skin (exterior), to muscle, channels, bone, blood and bone marrow. It is interesting to me that I frequently have students comment as they progress to higher levels: "Sifu (teacher), I don't feel the energy as much anymore, am I losing my connection the energy?" The answer is a simple no. What is occurring is that the energy is moving inward to greater depths and as it does so the student feels understand this and begin to listen to their body more carefully they realize the new depth to which the energy and their understanding has moved.

Qigong is a form of meditation and involves a variety of exercises, some moving, some sedentary (i.e. no physical movement, however energetic movement is occurring). However, all Qigong exercises are designed to work in differing ways with the energy in the body. Some exercises are specifically designed to gather energy, some to move energy, some to tonify energy, etc. Qigong study can be compared to a banquet. Some come to the table and simply look and smell, others taste a little of this and that, some eat all the food quickly, some relax, savour the food and digest the food completely. Qigong is similar. The person who simply looks and smells gains benefits and understanding at one level. However, those who delve deeper, find the essences and heart of Qigong.