I recently had a profound experience with chi (also qi), the universal force that sustains all living beings. I had just completed the first day of a weekend Qigong workshop at Spirit Rock Meditation Center with renowned Qigong master Mingtong Gu, an internationally-known teacher, healer, and founder of The Chi Center in Petaluma, California. I attended the workshop with the idea that I would be in for a peaceful weekend, engaged in simple movements designed to relax the mind and body.
I had already had some experience with Qigong here at North Atlantic Books where three times a week several members of the staff come together to practice a sequence taught to us by Kaleo Ching, Qigong teacher, artist, and author of Chi and Creativity: Vital Energy and Your Inner Artist (North Atlantic Books, 2007). More than a simple system of slow graceful movements, Qigong is an ancient Chinese system of breathing and chi exercises that also incorporates visualization, meditation, and sound healing techniques. At the workshop Master Mingtong Gu had us visualize an â€śocean of lightâ€ť all around us and showed us how to perform specific movements while chanting Chinese words such as Hao-La, a phrase meaning â€ścured, healed, and healthy.â€ť He explained that these exercises harness the healing forces that exist all around us.
After several hours of Qigong practice that also included a â€śhealing spiralâ€ť labyrinth walk, I was on my way home, driving across the Richmond Bridge back to my humble Berkeley home. As I drove, I was struck by the pronounced change in my inner state. I felt an alert calmness and deep sense of connection with my environment. Everything looked more vibrant and colorful; even mundane objects like road signs took on a lovely hue. Driving up my street, I commented to myself that I had never noticed how beautiful the streetlamps were. I was in an altered state of consciousness, on a natural high. I realized then that chi is not just a vague esoteric or new age concept; itâ€™s real and it can be tangibly felt. Itâ€™s all around us, in us, and can be easily tapped for healing purposes.
When I returned to our office, I delved into some of our books to find out what our expert authors have to say about the effects of chi on health and well-being. We have a wealth of books on this topic! I decided to start with two of our latest titles: Natural Chi Movement: Accessing the World of the Miraculous and Cultivating Qi: An Introduction to Chinese Body-Mind Energetics.
The author of Natural Chi Movement, Tienko Ting, describes chi as a â€śmedium or bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds â€¦ The action of chi is a catalyst for substances to transform â€¦ I think of chi as an activator, an initiator, and a driver. It is how things move. It is what causes flow.â€ť Drawing on Chinese history, philosophy, and medicine, Tingâ€™s book explores the nature of spiritual energy and how to access and use it for vibrant health and well-being.
In Cultivating Qi, author, Chinese medical doctor, and professor Jun Wang explains that wellness â€śdepends on the smooth flow of our vital energy. The fundamental benefit of doing Qigong â€¦ is to invigorate and regulate the movement of Qi in order to maintain health and vitality.â€ť Her book introduces three chi exercises that are used in traditional Chinese medicine but are largely unknown in the West. One of these practices, the Six Healing Breaths, regulates the internal chi by integrating body movements and sounds that correspond to particular organs in the body. By incorporating this exercise into my morning routine, Iâ€™ve noticed an improvement in my energy level and state of mind. Connecting with the invisible healing realm is a sacred process that puts me in touch with my own sense of wholeness. After a session of Qigong, I feel spiritually nourished and at peace.