Isn’t this picture calming? I spent 10 days in this room learning more Sheng Zhen Gong from Master Li Junfeng. It was a spectacular experience of qi gathering and movement, but more importantly heart opening. I will write more about this but I may take some time to absorb the experience. For now, I will just say it was great!!
I have this wonderful, wise qigong friend, Francie. She says the greatest things. She wrote a few days ago on Facebook –
“I choose happiness every time. Once upon a time I wouldn’t or couldn’t. How am I able to choose happiness in the midst of all that happens to me and others? For me, a steady Sheng Zhen practice has helped. Meditation has helped. My mind is stiller and can see more clearly the transitory and the permanent, which is change. It’s impossible really to say how this happened, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t have feelings of sadness, anger, fear . . . these feelings just don’t rule me anymore. They are more like companions along for the ride.”
I’m not quite there yet but I’m on my way and frequently those bad feelings are just along for the ride.
She has a way with words.
As I have noted on this blog before, I am a fan of metaphor.
Language is important. Negative language can have a powerful effect on who we are talking to. And probably an effect that we really don’t want.
Let me start with a real life example.
I was practicing qigong with a new teacher. We didn’t really know each other and it was just practice, not a class. I was following his movements and when we got to one of the movements he said “Don’t bend your wrists like that.” All qi flow stopped. What should I do? Fortunately, I remembered another teacher that when making a similar movement had suggested in a gentle and general way to “relax the joints and flex the wrists just slightly.” What a difference the two approaches had on me. In the latter I was given a better way. In my head I was saying “Yes, that is nice. It feels good.”
Negative statements frequently leave us with nothing to do. There is no action to take. It leaves us feeling powerless. Positive statements that suggest an action give us something to do. When we are about to make a negative statement we can take an extra second and think of a way to say what we want positively, in a gentle and encouraging way. Instead of telling a child not to run around, we can tell them to please walk. I heard a mother tell a group of rowdy teenagers in a grocery store to please be mindful of the people around them and behave in a courteous manner. Using positive statements make us feel better as well. It’s a kinder way. Using positive words opens our hearts.
Next we need to apply this to the way we talk to ourselves. Be positive and kind. Tell yourself what you want to do, how you want to act.
I started thinking about this subject a long time ago, but recently at TEDx Maui 2013 there were two talks related in some way to this idea.
It works for me! It’s the right energy work for me. It compliments my acupuncture. I feel better when I practice regularly. I love the people I know through qigong. I love Master Li.
I started Sheng Zhen Qigong when my acupuncturist recommended qigong and a local teacher, Kimberly, taught Sheng Zhen Gong. Kimberly was great! The gentle movements of the Sheng Zhen form were pretty and felt pleasing. The other students seemed to be having fun too. The room was filled with really good feelings. It was apparent that everyone had different abilities, yet the movements seemed right for each one of us. The climate in the room was supportive, not competitive at all.
When I started Sheng Zhen Gong my mood was a little anxious and sad. Tai chi (a martial arts form of qigong) which I had practiced for many years before was great for my balance when I practiced. And had helped a bit with anxiety. It still is a quick fix when my balance gets a little off, but that is rare now. What the qigong did for my moods was amazing. The longer I took the class and practiced the better I felt. In the years that I have practiced and studied I have also had some pain problems and also vertigo. Qigong helps with both of those problems. It also keeps me flexible and strong.
I continue to train annually with Master Li Junfeng. After each 10 day training I feel so clear and relaxed, ready to tackle any challenge.
The spiritual benefits are for another blog post. But the feelings of openheartedness that result from this practice are clearly connected to being relaxed and happy.
Check the Classes page for my schedule. Or you can contact me and we can get together anytime. Introductory classes are always free. I would love a group class. If you have space, I have time.
I feel inspired to write a bit about water. I might even say compelled. It was on my blog list in a vague way, but circumstances kept bringing the theme to the top. I seem attracted to water metaphors in picking quotes to inspire me in my blog.
My second blog post, Bad at Meditation, referred to thoughts that interrupt meditation as jetsam on the river. In preparing the most recent photo challenge blog, Home is…, I realized that I think of water as home or at least a large part of home. When I refer to water I tend to refer to it in a natural form – ocean, river, pond. When I practice qigong the movements frequently flow like I am in the water or I am water.
Recently, I read an article that talked about being like water. It suggested being like water to adapt to our environment just as water takes the shape of the vessel it is in. I like the “be like water” idea but I’m not as attracted to the idea of taking the shape of the vessel. I do understand the meaning but it doesn’t resonate with me.
I prefer this quote from a Sheng Zhen booklet Messages of Love. The poem is entitled Stilling the Mind. My favorite part is
Do not keep agitating
The waters of your mind.
Do not hold what you do
Dropping it over and over
Into the clear waters of your mind
Endlessly making ripples
Let go of what you do
Let it go like a pebble dropping, sinking
To the bottom of the lake.
If you do not chase it
If you do not plunge in after it
The ripples of it’s passing
Will once again return to stillness.
This is the kind of metaphor that works for me. “The ripples of it’s passing/Will once again return to stillness” is so clear to me. Different metaphors resonate with different people. Tell me the ones that resonate with you.
I’m really enjoying the creativity this photo challenge that Maui Shop Girl started has done for me and this blog. The blog idea is Maui, qigong and practical spirituality. Creativity is a mindfulness practice, but I didn’t want to post random pictures with no relation to the theme of this blog. More creativity is required. The challenge this week was a ant’s view. The picture at the top is an ant’s view.
My view is a little different. Sometimes we all need a little incentive to look at things from a different point of view to put things in perspective. What is important to me may not be what is important to another.
We are told to stand up straight put our shoulders back and pull in our tummies. Our appearance is so important. The shoulders back and relaxed is actually a healthy way to stand for our breathing if we don’t over do it and push past what is comfortable. To find that sweet spot of comfort and good posture I usually push until it is a little uncomfortable and then release a little. Relaxing the shoulders is important too. Now the chest is open and the lungs can fill comfortably.
But that “pull in the tummy” part is not the best for good full breaths. Singers know this and sing from their bellies. But I’m not talking about holding that note forever, so just a gentle rise and fall of the belly is the goal. If you can, take a few minutes to watch a baby breathe. If not try to watch a cat or dog. Watch the belly rise and fall. We should still breathe like babies do.
I find lying on the floor with your hands gently on the belly is the best way to practice belly breathing. A bed or couch will do though. With your hands on your belly you can close your eyes and feel the rise and fall. The idea is to just let the belly fill and then the chest. If you are lying down you are less likely to contort the body to make this happen. Then let the air out gently and slowly but naturally. I practiced on the floor many times before it felt natural. This is the best way to breathe all the time but is important for any energy work like qigong, yoga and tai chi or for stretching, exercise and meditation.
It is so relaxing and healthy getting all that oxygen.
Here is a link to some fun breathing exercises from Dr Weil. I have used the relaxing breath technique before but have gotten out of the habit. I’m going to start again. I forgot how effective it is.
What to bring: No mats, no props, just you and your intention. A cheerful spirit is helpful but not required.
I usually start classes with some of what I call body awareness moves, like swinging your arms, light stretching. This is so we can all become aware of where our body is today, what it needs and what to avoid or do more gently. A little light chatter usually accompanies this especially in evening classes as we wind down from the day.
The qigong itself can be done to any fitness level. Even imaging a movement is beneficial if you can’t physically make that movement today (or ever). There are seated forms and standing forms. Standing forms can be modified for sitting.
There is an opening movement that sets the tone to begin. This is serious but joyous stuff so a smile is encouraged. I like to teach Heaven and Nature Gong or Awakening the Soul to beginners. We end the class with the same movements as we use to open our practice, in thankfulness for the opportunity to practice and be with others.
If you click on the names of the forms above you can see Master Li (my teacher) demonstrate the forms. Only the first 5 movements of Heaven and Nature are shown in this video.