When I talk about Qigong, I often use the word “connection.”  In the sessions, we connect with other participants.  In the park, we connect to the nature around us (trees, bugs, birds, bunnies).  In the practice, we connect to our Qi.  But lately, I’ve begun to experience Qigong more like a relationship.

There are days when I’m excited to practice, I relax into flow and everything feels great. Then I’m enamored with Qigong and “in love” with my practice.  There are also days when I struggle to dedicate time to practice, the flows challenge me (physically, emotionally or mentally), and/or I feel overly hot, tired, nauseous or have a headache afterwards.  Then it’s easy to walk away in frustration.  However, my teachers tell me these difficult practices are more important than the easy ones because “difficult” is where the inner alchemy happens.  The key is to change the way you relate to the experience.

Today was a difficult day. 

Tired before I even began, I started with shaking and couldn’t stop yawning.  And yawning.  And yawning.  As I shook, I could feel irritation rise.  That’s when my mind and my body began an interesting conversation:  

  • Mind — Does irritation feel different than tired?
  • Body — Yes.  Irritation has lots of energy that tired didn’t.
  • Mind — Why are you irritated?
  • Body — I don’t know, but it feels better than tired.
  • Mind — How does it feel better?
  • Body — Tired feels heavy and soft, almost numb.  Irritation has an edge and is a bit buzzy.
  • Mind — Buzzy?  Is that good?
  • Body — I don’t know; I’ve moved on to amusement.  And that feels even better!

True enough, I was shaking my head and smiling as I “listened in.”  

Knowing I had a workout scheduled for the afternoon and my muscles were still sore from my previous workout, I had planned to do stretching and purging exercises.  So I moved to Tiger flow and my right knee whispered as I squatted.  I ignored it, and next squat my knee spoke to me.  I ignored it again, and so — no surprise — my knee yelled at me during the next squat. 

  • Mind — What’s wrong with you?
  • Knee — ME?!  What’s wrong with you?  Didn’t you hear me say to stop doing that?
  • Mind — But you squat all the time.  What’s different?
  • Knee — I don’t know, but it hurts so something isn’t right.  And if you keep doing this, I’m going to cause more problems than a momentary pang during a squat.
  • Mind — I do always say Qigong shouldn’t hurt.
  • Knee — Then stop doing that!

Amusement left and irritation returned.  But, I shortened my squat to a depth that my knee approved of.  

Next, I began a Deer movement from Five Animal Frolics — designed to strongly stretch the upper body straight through to the fingertips while also stretching the sides of the core, wringing out the organs in the abdomen and lower back, and squeezing the bones of the arms.  I could feel the heat in my muscles almost immediately and subsequently began sweating.

  • Mind — Woah!  Who turned up the thermostat?
  • Body — I did.  Can’t you feel all the tension in these muscles?  We need to transform it so it doesn’t stagnate and cause problems later.
  • Mind — You mean like when you did pushups and didn’t stretch, then had tingling in your fingertips for the next week?
  • Body — Hey, you’re the one who decided we didn’t have “time” to stretch.  But apparently we did have time to play with our sweaty mop of hair for eleven minutes before putting a ball cap on it anyway.  Just sayin’…you make the choices.
  • Mind — I said I wouldn’t do that again.
  • Body — Remember, heat is energy.  Feel those muscles burn!  Doesn’t it feel good?
  • Mind — I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you over Left Eye screaming from sweat dripping in.

The practice progressed and before I knew it, it was time for standing meditation.  I had chosen Smiling Buddha pose (stand in Wuji posture; slightly raise wrists so they are just in front of your lower abdomen, and smile).  I began sinking into the pose…

  • Mind — Hey mouth, you feel awkward.  Would you please relax into the smile?
  • Mouth — Make me.
  • Mind — Okay, did you see how many new rose buds opened on both bushes this morning?
  • Mouth — Yes, so beautiful!
  • Heart — I love those roses so much!
  • Mind — I know; it’s really amazing how much you care for plants.  Who knew you had it in you?
  • Heart — I’ve always cared a great deal, and with the girls grown and moved out, why not care about plants?  And dogs?  I LOVE our dogs!  I only wish they gave sweet little hugs like little girls do…  
  • Lungs — OUCH!
  • Eyes — AAAACCCCKKKKKK!
  • Mouth —  WAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!
  • Mind — Wait, how did caring for roses become sadness???!
  • Body — Inner alchemy.  
  • Arms — Yeah, don’t you feel how warm and strong and sparkling we feel now?
  • Lungs — Oh, that felt good!  I haven’t moved that much since the last big cry.
  • Feet — Are we even touching the ground? 
  • Back — Definitely, I’m taller now.
  • Heart — I love you!

What’s the secret to inner alchemy?  Curiosity.  So this week, as you practice, be curious — What does your body tell you about how you’re feeling?  What wisdom do you carry in your heart, your lungs, your arms, your knees, your feet, and anywhere and everywhere that’s talking to you?  

I hope it’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship for you and Qigong too.