Qi Gong helps us process many of the emotional experiences that we all encounter. Since humans are complex creatures, this means there are a multitude of energies that we’re required to work with.
In Lee’s classes, he often uses terms such as “purging,” “tonifying,” or “transforming.” These words refer to various ways we can work with our internal energy, and each is important in our Qi Gong practice. This is especially true in his more advanced trainings such as the Five Elements and Three Treasures.
To expand on our recent blog post, Qi Gong Vocabulary 101, we decided to explain three more terms that are commonly used in Lee’s teachings. Not only will understanding these terms help you to more fully recognize the meaning in Lee’s classes, but it will also help you to further appreciate the intentions of Qi Gong. Together, this can lead to a deepened, more fulfilling practice as you continue your journey.
The word “transforming” is far from esoteric, but really understanding how it applies to Qi Gong isn’t quite as simple.
Transforming is one of the most important processes that we focus on in Qi Gong. As a practice of cultivating our internal energy, we’re constantly paying attention to the transformations that are taking place within us.
For many students, one of the core purposes of the practice can be summarized in one simple sentence: Qi Gong is a practice to transform stress into vitality.
Every experience within us is a reflection of the energy moving throughout our bodies. Like water, Qi is constantly moving and transforming. No person is a static, rigid object that exists independently from the rest of the world. How we work with the process of change and transformation has a significant impact on our level of wellbeing.
Being aware of the fact that we’re constantly transforming can help us to be more skillful navigators of this inevitable process. Awareness can also allow us to take a more active role in the changes that occur, giving us more inner power and clearer intentions.
In Chinese Medicine and Qi Gong, we often seek to learn from the elements of nature that constantly surround us. When it comes to understanding change and transformation, there is no greater teacher than the Water element.
The Water element is constantly flowing in effortless harmony with the rest of the world. Just as a bubbling stream dances playfully down a rocky hillside in its steadfast journey toward the ocean, we too can learn how to flow past the metaphorical rocks in our life as we continue on our own true path.
Water’s ability to remain flexible and to transform is most evident when it changes between a solid, liquid, or gas. Everyone knows that ice melts into water, which evaporates and becomes vapor, which in turn gathers and forms clouds, before returning to rain, and then back to ice.
As a microcosm of the universe, each person also experiences a similar cycle of energy within them. We all have a physical body that contains our most primal and dense energy, which refers to ice. We also have emotional energy, which is usually concentrated in the chest and is more fluid and less tangible. This energy resembles liquid water.
Lastly, each of us has spiritual awareness that allows us to perceive the divine and learn from the universe. This is the least tangible and most ethereal of human energies. It is concentrated in the mind and correlates with water vapor and clouds.
Just like in nature, these energies within humans are constantly transforming—physicality informs our emotions, which leads to spiritual questioning. The answers we receive through our minds are distilled into emotions, which can transform into our state of physical wellbeing.
This process of inner change is part of what makes Qi Gong so powerful. By working with our internal energies, we can learn how to transform unhealthy energy states into those that are joyful and help us to grow.
Just as energy moves between different parts of ourselves, it can also move between us and our environment. We call this process exchanging.
As humans, we’re constantly exchanging energy with what lies around us. Any experience that happens outside of ourselves carries an energetic exchange of energy.
With people, exchanges of energy can take many forms. Conversations, facial expressions, movement, and physical intimacy are all ways in which we can share energy with one another. Many of these are overt and intentional, such as a verbal expression of appreciation or love.
Others are more subtle—the eye contact we share with a stranger on the sidewalk or a brief “hello” with the clerk at the checkout counter at the grocery store. Although brief, many of these everyday encounters have the potential to shift our energy if we allow them to.
In addition to the exchange of energy we experience with other people, we can also exchange it with the natural world. Since the universe and nature hold great wisdom, Qi Gong often focuses on absorbing the lessons that these sources have to offer.
Just as water can teach us about flow, the other parts of nature have their own, similar lessons to share with us. Wood has the qualities of strength and flexibility, earth of groundedness, and the universe of clarity and understanding. By tuning into these sources of power, we can be nourished by the exchange of energy that takes place.
The process of exchange happens naturally and constantly in life. Breathing is a clear example of exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide. Eating and drinking water is the process of taking in essential nutrients before releasing them from our bodies to fertilize the earth. As interconnected elements, every creature and plant relies on this critical process for their continued survival.
In Qi Gong, we further this process by working intentionally with the energetic exchanges that help us to become our healthiest, most fulfilled self. This allows us to show up more fully in our lives so we can give back to our planet and each other.
Once we’ve transformed and exchanged the energy we want for ourselves, it’s time to store it. Storing is the process of digesting energy and integrating it into our being.
Just as it’s important to let go of the energy that doesn’t serve us, it’s also important to store energy that does. If an experience brings us love, joy, and laughter, it might be a good idea to take that energy with us into the rest of our lives. When we do so, we are allowing it to elevate not just the experience itself, but all parts of who we are.
Similarly, after we’ve cultivated an abundance of nourishing Qi through our Qi Gong routine, we usually conclude our practice by storing our energy. After all, we practice not only so we can feel good during the routine, but also so we can take its gifts with us into our future.
If you’ve taken any of Lee’s classes, you’ll recall that he often finishes by placing his hands over his lower abdomen and taking a few deep breaths into his belly. This is because the lower abdomen is home to the Lower Tan Tien—our primary energy center where our prenatal Qi is stored.
Staying centered in our Lower Tan Tien helps us to stay connected to our true source, as well as the body we live in. By taking a few moments to store our Qi at the end of our practice, we’re better able to integrate all of the lessons and move forward with the energy we cultivated.
Expanding Your Qi Gong Practice
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Written by Ian Drogin