In the west we tend to think in terms of mind and body, but have no concepts to elucidate the interface between them. Clearly this is a profound difference. How does Qigong work with qi? Through movement and through working with a characteristic of qi, which is that it has two aspects; by working with the principle of the qi's dual nature of yin and yang, we make the qi move. This movement promotes health.
Often in the West exercise involves strain and overuse, even at the cost of health. Here is another profound difference. Athletes may suffer gross injury and undergo repeated surgery and illness in order to continue to perform, in the face of evidence that this will negatively impact their health in the long-term. Some even view injury as a badge of honour: proof that they have worked hard and overcome limitations. This attitude is contrary to the traditional Chinese view of beneficial exercise. The body should be heeded and its limitations accommodated, so that one can live a long and healthy life, refining one’s skill and serving others, which includes the transmission of the skill to subsequent generations. This is another profound difference of attitude: what we do is not just about us, it’s about humans in a long line all the way from our ancestral teachers, through to our great-great grandchildren and beyond. My Sifu Michael Tse likes to say that learning qigong changes you, meaning not just your body but your mind, your “heart”. It does so by working at the interface between the two, with the qi. That is its specialty.
How does qigong engage the mind? It focuses and concentrates the mind in meditation, it engages memory through the learning of complex sequences of movement and it refines attention. We notice how our bodies feel as we move, we consciously relax parts of our body affected by tension, check our posture and alignment, monitor our breathing so that it does not become blocked or forced. We engage the whole of us, from the inside to the outside, from the most fleeting and subtle thought to the tips of our toes. The movements themselves use the knowledge of generations of practitioners to give us a wide range of tools that we can use to recover flexibility, coordination, muscular strength, methods that restore homeostasis and regulate the normal functioning of our internal organs. While we do all this, our minds become calmer, still, less confused and distracted.
“Nothing in my heart: I am one with heaven”. (From the names of the form called “Releasing Sick Qi Gong” by Michael Tse.)