Qigong and Tai Ch’i image

Qigong and Tai Ch’i Healing

Qigong plays a vital role in Into Light and Shadow. Qi is translated as “life force” or “vital energy” and “gong” is translated as “work.” Qigong movements are therefore used to enhance the flow of qi. Both Qigong and Tai Ch’i, a martial art, are sometimes referred to as “moving meditation.” Many feel that stillness and silence can be better realized with Qigong and Tai Ch’i than with sitting meditation.

Balance Between Yin and Yang

Another characteristic that is stressed by both movements is balance between yin and yang. In this, a certain kind of “oneness” is intended, both in mixing the two types of qi and an androgynous balance between male and female ways of being.  The first time a close friend of mine attended Qigong/Tai Ch’i class with me, our instructor was demonstrating the Chen style short form, twisting and coiling, at times martial and hard, at other times soft and yielding.  Watching, my friend asked me whether the instructor was gay, not realizing that the instructor had excellent hearing.  The instructor immediately stopped and looked at me, beaming.  I grinned back.  My friend had complimented my instructor on how well he was demonstrating androgyny, especially since he isn’t gay.

Qigong and Tai Ch’i 2 imageWhen a student of Zen has had a personal practice established for five or six years, their teacher will often urge them to take up a somatic practice.  The practice most likely to be recommended in the United States will be yoga, especially for women.  But since both Tai Ch’i/Qigong and Zen have deep roots in the Shaolin monastery in China, a more compatible practice may be Qigong and Tai Ch’i.  But both require serious patience.  Chen-style Tai Ch’i instructors say that after two years of diligent practice you’ll be able to do the Chen short form without following someone else, but only you and your instructor will know that you’re actually doing Tai Ch’i.  It takes another four to six years of serious practice before you’ll actually look like you’re doing Tai Ch’i.  By then you may also be manifesting qi.

Somatic Practice and Deep Emotions

Somatic practice is necessary because deep and serious emotions begin to arise while on the cushion after some years of practice.  In both Tai Ch’i and Qigong it’s emphasized that deep emotions are carried in the body.  For instance, Tai Ch’i emphasizes that stress is most often carried in the shoulders, so warm up exercises for them are common.  A Tai Ch’i or Qigong teacher will warn students that at after five or six years practice, strong emotions may arise when doing Tai Ch’i or Qigong form.