We all know what it’s like — moving quickly to get things done, but an important item slips through the cracks. Perhaps, you forgot your wallet or phone on your kitchen table at home. Or, maybe you lost track of your thought process while multi-tasking in front of your computer. Whatever the situation is, it doesn’t feel good when your mind seems to slip out from under you.
Although some amount of human error is inevitable, there are a lot of things we can do to minimize forgetfulness and lapses in mental focus. This blog post will explore the brain from a Chinese Medicine perspective, and offer some actionable suggestions to help you enjoy a clear and focused mind.
The Brain: A Chinese Medicine Perspective
In Chinese Medicine and Qi Gong, we often refer to the brain as “the curious organ.” The reason for this reference is obvious: the human brain is constantly asking questions, probing for answers, and imaging possibilities. Our species’ unique position in the world is primarily a result of our large and curious brains.
According to Chinese Medicine and Qi Gong, the energy of our minds is seen as an extension of our kidney Qi. Therefore, cultivating strong kidney Qi through flowing, water-like exercises is a great way to increase the energy that our brains have to work with.
Although the brain is sometimes viewed as a distinct entity from the rest of the body, it’s important to realize that it’s essentially no different than your heart, liver, or lungs. Indeed, it’s as essential for your moment-to-moment existence as any other part of your being. Just as the rest of your body relies on the constant circulation of energy and blood, so does your brain. Qi Gong offers many powerful exercises for circulating Qi throughout your arms, legs, organs, and, yes — your brain.
When your Qi is moving fluidly and gracefully around your body, an energizing yet calm feeling comes over you. It’s like you’re awake and vital, yet relaxed and at peace. This is the state that allows you to perform well without being stressed out or anxious.
The Brain and Stress
Above, we alluded to the consequences that stress leads to. Unsurprisingly, stress can greatly inhibit our ability to think and act in a clear and decisive way.
What happens when you’re feeling stressed or anxious? In Chinese Medicine, we view stress as an imbalance of Qi throughout various parts of the body. Often, this means that too much energy has risen into your head and too little is in your body. Think of an overworked businessperson who has a chattery mind but feels depleted and exhausted in their body. In this situation, Qi has stopped circulating and flowing throughout all parts of the body, which makes it impossible to experience calm and vital energy.
Although it may seem like a good thing to have “too much energy” in your brain, it actually doesn’t help you. Because the energy that is there isn’t circulating throughout the rest of your body, it becomes trapped, stagnant, and beyond your control. Even if you might be moving quickly while stressed out, it’s more than likely that you’re forgetful, unfocused, and unable to effectively navigate the situation before you.
Some Simple Qi Gong Techniques to Improve Focus and Memory
The answer to stress is to slow down, reconnect with your body, and find that place of composed energy and relaxation. When you do so, your mind is better able to hold on to information and maintain focus.
Of course, Qi Gong is an amazing practice for letting go of stress and returning to your center. If you only have a few minutes, try doing some slow, deep belly breathing. It can help to have one hand on your belly and another on your chest. As you inhale, breathe air into your belly, then your ribs, and finally into your chest. As you exhale, release the air from your chest, ribs, and then finally your belly. Do this for a few minutes and feel your mind and body drop into a more relaxed and focused state.
Another great exercise for focus and memory is called Cloudy Hands. To do this practice, stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and allow one of your hands to glide through the air from one side of your body to the other at chest height. As you go to the right, allow your right palm to face your body and have your left hand follow about a foot or two below, with your left palm facing the ground. Then, reverse your hands and move in the other direction. This exercise helps to connect the right and left parts of your brain so your mental energy is flowing and smooth.
Lastly, when you have finished practicing Qi Gong, take your hands and place them over your forehead, ears, and then the back of your head. Imagine sending vital Qi to your brain and infuse your mind with focus and clarity. Intentions are powerful, so even just doing this simple step can really help you to cultivate mental strength and a sharper memory.
Some “Non-Qi Gong” Strategies for Focus and Memory
Although everything you do is technically Qi Gong (working with energy), there are some additional steps you can take beyond movement and meditation to improve your focus and memory. The brain requires great nourishment and care to be at peak performance, so one of the first things to look at is diet and nutrition.
Make sure you’re getting enough protein and healthy fats. Additionally, antioxidants are extremely healthy for your brain and can help nourish your mind and body. Lastly, we all know that caffeine can stimulate your mind and give you the perception of increased energy. While it can be powerful and positive, it’s also important to not abuse caffeine or rely too heavily on its activating qualities. However, when used in a balanced and moderated way, it can be a helpful ally for mental focus and memory.
More Qi Gong Experiences to Help Improve Memory and Focus
Since finding a relaxed yet energized state is perhaps the most important element for memory and focus, any Qi Gong practice will be extremely helpful. Lee’s Qi Gong for Longevity workshop includes some great brain exercises, as does his immersion program: Tao Yin.
Tao Yin is an amazing practice for cultivating strength and flow throughout your entire body and mind. By integrating deep, stretching exercises and nourishing flowing movements, it connects all parts of your being and elevates your energy in innumerable ways.
In addition to learning Taoist teachings about the body and mind, this experience also helps to clear old blockages and enhance the circulation of Qi. Like many of Lee’s immersion programs, this opportunity is well-suited for both seasoned practitioners and beginners alike. Click on the banner below to learn more or sign up for Tao Yin today.
By Ian Drogin