If you haven’t heard the term qigong before, it may seem odd. It is a Chinese word that is actually made of 2 words, one meaning vitality and the other meaning cultivation. In other words, it simply means, "cultivate vitality."
The practice of qigong (pronounced "chee gung") evolved from extensive personal research by thousands of dedicated people. Over the years many styles of qigong emerged, many seemingly very different from one another. The one thing they all have in common is that they serve to develop one or many aspects of us as human beings.
My original teacher, Share K. Lew, placed qigong within a broader category called neigong ("inner cultivation"). He said that qigong was for building and strengthening one’s personal energy and that neigong was more for discovering how all aspects of energy in the world are interrelated with our own.
One other thing they all have in common are the basic building blocks around which each exercise is built. There are 4 of these basic building blocks, and they are referred to as the ‘secrets’ of qigong. Are you ready for them? Here they are:
I think of these concepts as a way to understand how to get all of your ‘ducks in a row’ and be fully present in the moment. This level of being ‘here and now’ is a powerful way to improve your health, your mental focus and your ability to perceive the world clearly.
Here is a bit more explanation of these concepts:
- Your eyes direct vital energy in your body. One way you can observe how your eyes affect energy is by noticing how your visual focus affects people in your environment. When you look at someone, they can sense your gaze and will often respond to it.
- Your mind must be present to tap into the vitality available at any moment. The cute way to say this is the if you aren’t ‘here-now’ you are ‘nowhere’. It’s not that planning ahead isn’t useful, nor is recalling and learning from the past a waste of time, but rather that most of the time you are better off being in this moment right now. It is only from here and now that you can take clear, decisive action.
- Your movement will ideally be smooth and strong, but without tension. If you imagine being a garden hose and the energy is water streaming within you, you may get an idea of why this is so. If there are kinks in the hose, usually showing up as tension, your energy will not be as strong as it might be and you will get less done.
- Your breathing should coordinate with every other aspect of your experience. Nothing is more fundamental to moment-by-moment survival than breathing. Yet there is almost nothing that most people pay less attention to on a daily basis. We tend to take breathing for granted unless we are experiencing some kind of interruption of the process.
By practicing these basic concepts regularly, you learn how to optimize your own vital energy. The result is increased health, better awareness and an improved quality of life.