In Qigong, its a constant theme of going “focus on the forms”, “focus on relaxation”, “focus on your breath”. All these things are completely correct. However, I like to propose a counter point to all these focuses. Take a step back with me and lets have a discussion. What I’m about to say..may make people cringe.
What if…What if NONE of those focuses mattered? What if they were all distractions? What if…you, Yes you – could get a strong foundation in Qigong by doing something that seems easy & trivial. Note, I said seems easy and trivial (its quite opposite).
People think standing in Zhan Zhuang (standing postures) are hard. It is because you are still and have to *ahem*, be with yourself. Lets jump off the bridge here and go for the next level. That is what your here for right? Here’s the cookie to increase your Qigong practice. Breathe, smile and be kind & self-compassionate/loving to yourself. The premise of this idea is rooted deeply in Qigong theory.
In Qigong, emotions & thoughts are viewed as just forms of energy. It could work for you or against you. Typically, Qigong helps moves “stagnation’s” of energy (physically, emotionally, mentally) to help you flow with the environment better. Once these flows start to move things, the energy which “kept” those stagnation in place become released and freed up. In the process, one gains increased energy levels, vitality, wellness, peace of mind (and much more) since your no longer “holding on to things”.
Want to test how much energy it takes to “hold” things or be tense? Lets test an exercise: Squeeze your fists and arms as hard as you can. Hold the squeeze as hard as you can. I’ll wait….
Welcome back, it gets tiring and exhausting doesn’t it?
How does this all relate to kindness, self-love & compassion? Lets first establish that kindness, self-love & compassion are emotion/thoughts. Easy start. It is said in Qigong & Chinese energetic practices, positive emotions expand and increase energy. They are Yang in nature. Yin emotions on the other hand condense and contract energy.
Neither is worst or better, we all need a balance of Yin & Yang thoughts/emotions. The context to whether a negative emotion is positive is, does it nourish you and then help you move to a Yang state. Remember, everything is cyclical in the Chinese paradigms. You can’t be happy ALL the time..if you are, what are you denying within yourself? Further..how can you know happiness without a context to a negative emotion such as..fear or sadness. Eb and flow.
Going back to kindess, self-love & compassion. I would consider these Yang states which help balance negative emotions/thoughts such as self-judgement, criticism, and hate. Judgement, criticism and hate can be positive, they help us demarcate boundaries, help us process information and can motivate us to change. However generally speaking..we are much to harsh on ourselves. Pure and simple.
Understanding this..why does self-compassion, love and kindness possibly trump Qigong forms, breathwork and visualization? The reason is simple..you can’t grow plants on salted earth. If you aren’t these emotions/thoughts, although the Qigong forms, breathwork and visualization will help you move things, your going have ALOT of blocks. The traditional context of training was: forms –> breath –> visualization. This whole process was to dip people’s toes into hot water. Most people don’t want to deal with the boggie monster in the closet. Its scary & frightening. Easing people into a structure where the form can ground you, one’s breath calms you, and visualization to move things is a more appeasing proposal.
I said earlier in this post, self-compassion, love and kindness can will help you build a strong Qigong foundation. Now you understand the “Why”. The “How” can be done in various ways. Purely from a Buddhist paradigm, meditation on these aspects will help you grow into them. From a Daoist point of view, one is self-compassionate, loving and kind to oneself by following instincts. The Confucian take is, one does this through acts and discussions with other people. All these are great ways to work on this..however, this is a Qigong post. Lets do a Qigong exercise:
Sit down, place your hands on your belly.
Breath..feel your belly expand on the inhalation and sink with the exhalation. Do this for few minutes.
Put a smile on your face, keep the breathing consistent from step 2
Continue steps #2, #3 – now imagine a red ball around your heart (Left side of the chest)
Continue steps #2, #3 – breath in a deep shining ruby color into the ball, exhale any dark, polluted red within the orb
Continue steps #2, #3, #5 – imagine feelings of acceptance, love and connection being inhaled with the deep shining ruby color orb, exhale any dark polluted red color within the orb & feelings negative emotions that arise.
Once the orb is ruby shining, glittering..move your attention to the Lower Dantian (4 fingers directly underneath the belly button). Practice #2, #3
Continue #2, #3 and your focus on the Lower Dantian, when you feel ready, grounded & relaxed – come out of the meditation.
Walk around, grab some warm water. Go do something else.
The color red is connected to the Heart, the element Fire, and is the Emperor of all the organs and emotions. By empowering the Fire within ourselves we may see the light to be kind, loving, and compassionate to ourselves. Within this process, negative emotions are purified- released and transformed into balanced positive ones.
Remember, Qigong exercises like the above are excellent starts! They are not the end all be all, self-love, compassion and kindess is an ongoing project. Every moment is a possible space to practice these types of thoughts/emotions. Build up your qi by observing your thoughts, breathing and practicing habits which encourage this growth. In closing, a perfect summary of this practice comes from Reiki Master & Transmitter Usui Sensei.