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When I first discovered Tai Chi, I heard about this mysterious thing called "Qi." Admittedly, I was dubious. Coming from a medical background, I considered the concept of Qi to be a bit too "out there" for me. However, it was only a matter of a few weeks of practicing Tai Chi that my hands began to tingle and feel warm. At that point, I acknowledged a presence of something, but was tempted to explain it away from a medical perspective (nerve gliding).
One day while leading a group in Qigong, I had a strong sensation in my left arm. I was certain my SmartWatch was vibrating from an alarm or incoming call. I looked at my watch. Nothing. Hmmmmm. I resumed my Qigong. Then it happened again. This time, I sneaked a look at my watch as the vibration, now resonating into the bones of my left arm, continued.
It was not my watch.
The sensation continued as my brain was trying to sort out this new sensation and discovery. I went from confused, to wonder, to a sort of "Wow!!" acceptance. There was no denying at this point. Qi was real.
Qi is real. It is just as real as the air you breathe, as the light you see, and as the color spectrums we do not see but are indeed, present. We can not see the waves of energy which provide imaging in x-rays, MRIs and CT scans, but it is there and is real. As real as sonic waves that we can hear, and those we can not. And as real as the vibration of a musical note, or a voice heard and unheard. Even our cells have light and energy within them.
And so it is with Qi. We can, with practice, increase the volume, the resonance and the frequency (as in vibration and amplitude) of Qi running through our body.
What do we do with this Qi? First and foremost, invite it in. Enjoy it. Observe it. Celebrate it, but not too much because then it will disappear! Do not pursue it. If you do, it will evade you. I like to think of it as a shy character within, wanting to break forth in an internal Happy Dance!
Qi to me, is a certain invisible effervescence which rises up and expands from within.
Once Qi is cultivated, you will become more sensitive and it will grow in its intensity. It will also travel more freely throughout the body. Typically we first feel Qi in our hands. But it can, and eventually will be, felt throughout your body. The more relaxed and open your Qigong or Tai Chi practice becomes, the more unimpeded Qi can flow. Think of your body as one big connected garden hose. Your goal is to open any of the kinks in the garden hose to allow for improved flow. I still have kinks in my garden hose, but much less than when I first started Qigong and Tai Chi.
Qi can present in different ways in your body. Sometimes I feel it as a wave or ribbon of energy pulsating throughout my whole body. That is an exceptionally good
Qi day. Sometimes it feels like static electricity covering my skin. Sometimes I feel hot, or even break out in a sweat. I may have white flashes of light (when I close my eyes), or an increase in pain in a joint that has been bothering me. If you have these sensations, just acknowledge it, but try not to attach meaning to it. Just let go and rest in the folds of your Qi. Sometimes I envision it as a misty color around my body, expanding outward. When I do this, it almost always increases.
Now about my recent experience with Qi.
Foot in the Sand
When I teach or practice Tai Chi and Qigong, I repeatedly mention the "turning doorknob in the arches of your feet." This concept was taught to me by my mentor and teacher, Master William Ting.
Last week, while on a camping trip, I found a particularly serene setting in which to practice Wuji Qigong. The ground was a mixture of hard rock, with a dusting of sand and small rocks on top. For some reason, I felt inclined to practice my movements barefoot. I lightly brushed away the top layer of pebbles and stones, creating a smooth thin surface of soft, cool sand. I have extremely sensitive feet, so I was pleasantly surprised with the coolness and extremely fine grain of the sand. It felt like baby powder under my feet.
I began my practice. I became so immersed in the beautiful scenery that my Qi really ramped up. My awareness increased where I could see the smallest detail and the vastness before me at the same time. I notice the ant crawling on a small blade of grass in front of me, and felt the sturdiness and presence of the giant rock across the inlet from me.
After my Qigong session was complete, I decided, out of pure curiosity to see what my foot print looked like. I was especially wondering if my toes were touching the ground and if the arches of my feet where not. Secretly, I joked with myself and thought, "I wonder if I can see the doorknobs under the arches of my feet?"
When I pulled my feet away from the sand, I was stunned. There, in the 'hollow' of my right foot print, where my foot never touched the ground, was a starburst. At first (like the first time I felt Qi vibrating in my arm) I was filled with disbelief. I got down on my hands and knees and looked closer. It was definitely there. It was perfect. A round etching with a pinpoint center, and starburst lines emanating out from the center.
I had been mulling this over for a few days, when for some reason a video of no seeming relevance to me, came into one of my social media feeds. It was a video on the shapes vibrations make. It showed a man, spreading salt across a table. He then applied a roller across the edge of the table (like a pizza roller with a serrated edge). The salt danced and vibrated....and formed a shape. As I watched the shape emerge, I nearly fell out of my chair. It made the EXACT same shape as that starburst under my foot.
Do I know exactly what happened under my foot? No. Do I believe it was a manifestation of Qi? Yes. What else could it be? I was absolutely certain that shape did not exist before I started my Qigong practice. I had smoothed the sand perfectly before I began.
I did take photos of the footprint. I have three photos for you to view. Perhaps you will see it right away, perhaps not. The starburst is subtle. I invite you to look at photo 1. Then, look at photo 2 and 3. Then go back to photo 1 and it will be obvious to you.
Just like Qi, at first observation or experience it might not be obvious. But when you feel or (or in this case see it), it will be impossible to ignore.
If you have not felt Qi, do not be disheartened or discouraged. If you are alive, you have Qi! Be patient, give yourself time and be aware. Open you mind to the possibility, or distract yourself away from the pursuit of Qi. Eventually you will feel Qi. It may even show up in a surprising way!
Thanks for reading. See you next live stream class.
Here is the video of the salt on the table and the patterns it made: