You Can’t Do Qigong
By Rodney Owens
One simply can’t do Qigong. The thing that we are looking for, the experience of Qi flow, the “Qigong State” if you will, is not something that can be acquired by doing. It is better found or experienced by undoing. The Qigong State, complete with the physical, mental and spiritual benefits that accompany it, is quite simply our natural state. It is who we are at our core. We don’t always recognize or experience it because we have covered it up with the experiences and stressors of life, with conditioning and ego attachment, and the byproducts of unhealthy lifestyles. But it is still there, below the surface, waiting to flourish.
To best experience Qigong, we need to let go and let it flow. Now, that doesn’t discount or demean the forms and practices that we engage in and call Qigong. These are what they are, and each and every one has its unique and powerful benefits. The key to doing by not doing is attitude, perception, approach. It’s more about not trying so hard; about changing perception. Don’t do Qigong, be Qigong.
One of the first problems new students to Qigong and Taiji confront is the difficulty in relaxing and flowing with the movement. Part of the problem is in the way the art is taught. For instance, in the Taiji form or any choreographed Qigong movements, we have to learn one step or one movement at a time. Unfortunately, this results in choppy and mechanical movements as the student learns the form. This is a normal result of learning. It happens to everyone who attempts these arts. It is inevitable. However, the intention is typically that the given form be actualized as one long flowing movement rather than a set of different movements strung together. But it is broken down into one movement at a time to make it easier to teach, easier to learn. Making the transition from a collection of strung-together separate movements to one long flowing movement can be a significant accomplishment, and can be a learning challenge for many years.
Another problem that newer students face is speed. Let’s face it, learning to move at a slower pace is counter-intuitive. A related skill is relaxation, or Fang Song, which can also be a challenge. Learning to relax properly is not only a challenge for beginners, it can continue to be a challenge for advanced practitioners for many years. Compared to the way we have spent the majority of our lives, relaxing and moving slow can be tough new skills to learn. But that is the essence of the problem: the way we have spent the majority of our lives.
We are accustomed to taking action to achieve results. And in the practice of Qigong we are taking action, just with a different attitude. If we know that we already are the healthy, happy, awake individuals that we want to be, then perhaps we can ease into it naturally rather than trying so hard to make it happen. What we need is to transcend intention. We can take a shortcut from intention to actualization by accepting our natural state and letting it flourish through our practice. Approach the process as an end in itself. Know that all you need, all that you can ever be, is present and at hand.
Instructive here is the oft-repeated story of Michelangelo and how he created his statue of David. When asked how he created such a beautiful sculpture from a plain chunk of rock, Michelangelo replied that David was already there, underneath all that rock. His job was to simply remove everything that wasn’t David. Perhaps that is what Qigong practice is all about: removing all the junk that we have piled on ourselves, that gets in the way of us projecting and actualizing our true Selves.
From this perspective, it is a bit easier. All we have to do is mindfully breathe, move, be still, or just be. And then bathe in the resultant Qi flow that always happens, because it is always here—right here at your fingertips, just waiting to be acknowledged. Seeing it from this perspective should also help us with our need for speed and resistance to relaxation. There is no need to hurry. This is not a means-to-an-end kind of situation. There is no difference between means and end. In fact, the means-to-an-end analogy doesn’t apply at all when perceived from this perspective. The Qigong state is an end unto itself. And in that state, relaxation is a most natural byproduct. Granted, new students will still go through the choppy phase of putting the moves together. And it takes some time to really appreciate the depth of the Qigong State. But make no mistake: Qigong is for anybody and everybody. There is nothing easier, nothing more natural than being who we already are: healthy, happy, and strong. There is no need for indoctrination, special transmission or closed ceremony. All it takes is presence. One class and the new student is as much a Qigong practitioner as anyone. And it only gets better from there.
[Rodney Owen has had a life-long interest in the relationship between meditation and martial arts. Over the years he has followed and studied systems that emphasize that relationship: Aikido, Qigong, Taijiquan, I Liq Chuan, and Buddhism. He practices and teaches Taiji, Qigong, Kung Fu, and Meditation in High Point, NC. His primary interest is in the practical and functional aspects of these arts and in the concept that Kung Fu is a way of life, a methodology for improving and enjoying the content of life, of discovering and manifesting our higher selves. He maintains a blog on martial arts and mindfulness at http://nagualtime.blogspot.com/ Samples of his writing and other interests can be found at http://rodneyjowen.com ]