Why practice Qi Gong? For one thing, it's an alternative to the gym, and it's effects are similar to an acupuncture treatment.
Qi gong is a low impact but powerful exercise that nourishes from within. It helps promote the free flow of qi, alleviating physical symptoms and emotional imbalances. It also helps maintain good health.
In Chinese Medicine there is a saying: "Qi is the commander of Blood, Where Qi goes the Blood must follow. Blood is the mother of Qi." Qi is like a current in a river; it carries everything in it's flow.
Simply, a healthy qi flow equals complete circulation of blood throughout the body, delivering nutrients and oxygen, stabilizing hormones, and removing metabolic waste.
Master Li's qi gong practices are my favorite. Fun fact: Master Li starred and choreographed martial arts films in China before devoting himself to the more peaceful practice of Qi Gong. Try practicing it below and see how you feel. You can order his DVDs from the Shen Zhen Society website: http://www.shengzhen.org/
I know that the benefits of meditation in my life are many. For one, it creates an inner stillness from which to act-but I often find myself resistant to my regular meditation practice. I just came across this wonderful quote from the enlightened spiritual teacher, Paramahansa Yogananda, that gets right to the heart of the matter.
“The soul loves to meditate, for in contact with the Spirit lies its greatest joy. If, then you experience mental resistance during meditation, remember that reluctance to meditate comes from the ego; it doesn't belong to the soul. ”
This doesn't always mean that the experience of meditation will be happy or blissful. Patients often report that they're "not good at meditating," because "they can't stop thinking!" I find that its the intention to sit quietly and connect with the highest aspect of your self that matters. Its not whether your head is full of thoughts or completely empty, it's the relationship you have with those thoughts - being completely wrapped up - or having no relationship at all - that matters.
This brief Scientific American article discusses how the brain responds to meditation. A few positive benefits are increased capacity for learning and memory, as well as the possibility for decreased anxiety and stress response. Interestingly, the brain structure itself is what changes, showing our amazing capacity to evolve and grow when we choose to do so. http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=mediation-correlated-with-structura-11-01-22
While this article focuses on the meditator's benefits and the scientific findings of the a meditation practice, I'd like to add that any meditation practice is best held with the intention "how can I serve the whole, and choose to act in a way that will serve my highest motivations and qualities?", rather than meditating to improve one's feeling state or mental acuity alone.
In my experience, meditation is not always a relaxing experience, but it is always a growth experience. It often reveals the level of daily chatter that isn't contributing towards any forward motion. When I speak to patients about meditation, they often say they aren't relaxed enough to meditate, or they are too distracted by all the thoughts that come up.
The point of meditation is not to instantaneously achieve a state of deep relaxation, although it is often a side effect! The point is is to let go, and choose to have no relationship with your history or future, and the emotions, drama, and upset entangled therein.
How? In meditation, when a thought, feeling, or physical sensation comes up, you don't even need to acknowledge it. You simply choose not to have a relationship and focus on something very simple: nothing. It may not be comfortable, but again, not the point. In a culture where "nothing" is avoided at all costs are we are always doing and striving for "something," it may come as a pleasant relief or a shock to the system. Either way you will find yourself becoming more attuned to the place inside you where there is always a palpable sense of the still. It is practice for real life. So that when your emotions run high or you find yourself lost in a mental loophole, you can choose to act from a place of no-relationship, or stillness, rather than from a conditioned reaction.
And, you just might find that symptoms, such as headaches, tired eyes, and muscle tension - the signs of stress and anxiety - will fade, the positive correlations between meditation and the body detailed in the article above are your body's way of telling you what's good for you.
"People of great wisdom reverse the operation of the natural process; they are not bound by the natural process, not molded by yin and yang, not compelled by myriad things, not changed by myriad conditions. Planting lotuses in a fire, hauling a boat through mud and water, they make temporary use of things of the world to practice the principles of [dao], by the human [dao], completing the celestial[dao]. They uproot the mundane senses conditioned by history and sweep away all acquired influences. They rule their own destinies and are not ruled by fate. Restoring the whole, original being, they avoid compulsive routine, transcend all worlds, and become incorruptible."
-Liu Yi Ming
What does this mean in our lives? It is the point at which we are no longer acting based upon a conditioned or habitual place in ourselves, but acting from unaffected consciousness, the place within ourselves that we know is absolutely the best part of ourselves. It comes from a non-selfish motivation, and yet it is this motivation is inherent within each of us, so it cannot be separate from the self. It is within you as much as it is in me.
How do we practice this? The more time I spend in meditation, in silence, and in prayer, the more connected connected I am with this place of freedom. This has been my experience and so it is what I can speak to. When I meditate, the goal is to have no relationship with any thoughts or physical sensations - no relationship with anything at all. This allows for moments of detachment from the world of "myriad things", the world of form. Relationships to things, people, and experiences no longer bear the same, or any, relation, and this allows for a radial re-positioning of who I am and why I am here.
This meditation is practice for real life. So that when I am not meditating, I can have access to that freedom and the place from which to choose consciously rather than react habitually. If you suffer from anxiety, worry, endlessly thinking, or are "stuck" in a certain emotion, meditation is a window, a way to see yourself as new whenever you choose.
How does this all relate to Acupuncture, you might ask? Well, it's funny. During or after a treatment, people often say that they were not aware of time, and felt completely relaxed. Somehow, the treatment accesses that part of us that is incapable of having any problem with anything at all. It stands outside the world of form and duality, mine and yours. It's not uncommon to feel a formless bliss while laying on the table, (or you might just hear the chattering of your mind, or both, I make no guarantees!) But while this is a wonderful feeling state in of itself is not the goal of treatment. The goal is to gain awareness of your own potential and power, that you can choose your state, be able to access this place yourself at any time, without any intervention from the outside. What I love about receiving Acupuncture is that it reminds me of this! It sheds light on a dark corner, and lovingly pulls me forward.
"Define yourself by how busy you are, and you will never have time for life."
A timely reminder from Joe Robinson that asks us to think about how we define self-worth. What do you say gives meaning to your life?