Following the recent release of Feeling the Way, author Rob Long participated in a Q&A with his colleague Shelagh Brady to discuss his new book and what ‘healing’ means for him.
In this blog by Rob Long, author of Feeling the Way, Long examines what healing means and how it applies to our lives.
In my new book ‘Feeling The Way’ I make the bold claim that everybody possesses what is commonly called ‘healing hands’. That means you! What appears in the book is a stripped-back, extremely practical how-to guide, based on insights from over twenty years of my own trial and error in the clinic. I have called what I do ‘Qi Sensitivity Healing’, or QHS for short, and whilst much of it is innovative, it also owes a huge debt to ancient Chinese practices, especially those of the Daoists, those progenitors of Acupuncture, herbal medicine and many other instantly recognizable modalities .
In this blog by Amanda Brennan, author of The Energetic Performer, Brennan provides an overview of her method of acting and how increasing awareness of the body can enhance the acting experience.
I recently ran a series of workshops for professional actors in Santiago, Chile. The course was designed to refine performance skills, explore the craft of screen acting and discover how to create a rich and complex inner life. In my book The Energetic Performer, I refer to the inner life as all that moves with in, thoughts, vibrations of the nervous system, the beat of the heart, the flow of breath, all feelings and emotional expression. Its cultivation is at the heart of screen performance, where the real action is on the inside. To achieve this aim, I began with what I believe is the fundamental necessity: preparing the body for work.
Thursday 21st April Schedule – #QigongFestival2016
Links will be added once the material is live at the specified times below. Keep checking this page for updates! The majority of the links will remain active during and following the festival.
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Friday 22nd April Schedule – #QigongFestival2016
Links will added once the material is live at the specified times below. Keep checking this page for updates! The majority of the links will remain active during and following the festival.
*All times at BST
The following article is adapted from the book Qigong Through The Seasons by Ronald H. Davis.
Spring pertains to the Wood Phase a heady, invigorating, sometimes disturbing season with wild fluctuations of energy surging throughout nature as birth, arousal and movement. The momentum created by spring qi gives structure and impetus to the world. In humans, qi rises like a slow tide coming up from its winter storage in the lower abdomen and moving into the chest where it stimulates the liver with fresh vitality. As an infusion of energy, the rising qi carries benefits as well as the potential for problems. Continue reading
The practice of Qigong Through the Seasons is designed to harmonize the health of your internal organs with the seasonal energetic changes of nature.
Autumn is the time to give special attention to the Lungs. Breathing is the most important thing you do from moment to moment and yet most of us are unaware of how we breathe and have lost our innate connection to the breath cycle. We, therefore, often fail to completely benefit from the power of correct breathing.
The Source of Qi
Breathing stands out as our quintessential rhythmic interaction with the world; lungs function as a permeable interface between each of us and everything else. The lungs are yin organs that receive air from the outside world, extract its healthy components and send them downward to the lower dan tian, the primary energy center of the abdomen, to be combined with the nutrients of food. That fusion of air’s vitality and food’s energy produces our greatest quantity of qi. In ancient times, the word ‘qi’ primarily had the meaning of ‘vital breath’ emphasizing that our indispensable energy comes from breathing.
Astonishingly, the lungs eliminate seventy percent of the body’s waste products. This makes exhalation a hugely significant detoxifying activity. We must completely exhale so that the respiratory system can flush out toxins and debris; only then can we receive a full complement of fresh air on the next inhalation. Stress, fear, anger, and doubt are the main emotional states that interfere with a healthy exhalation. Many people subconsciously don’t let go of the breath—they feel like they must hold on to that last bit of air, otherwise they may expire. The ability to completely let go of the breath often relates to issues of trust and relaxation.
The correct practice of qigong creates mental tranquility and thus will profoundly enhance healthy breathing by relaxing the lungs and allowing them to freely function. The following exercise, White Healing Mist, is the most important qigong exercise to do during the autumn season. It uses mental intention, body movement, and regulated breathing to purify and strengthen the lungs.
White Healing Mist Exercise
This graceful neigong (internal qigong) exercise fills the lungs with fresh qi while cleansing them of turbid qi. The intent of the mind uses detailed imagery of pure and impure qi. The movement of the hands leads the qi into and out of each lung. The ‘white healing mist’ can be any personal image that conveys a sense of purity, freshness, tranquility and healing. The ‘toxins’ can be not only respiratory debris but also cloudy, unhealthy thoughts. As the interface between internal and external worlds, the lungs command our self-defense system. When doing this practice, you may want to identify those healthy and unhealthy aspects of your life. Then you can nurture the good with the white mist, and purge the bad along with the toxins. Do this exercise slowly with focused concentration on one lung at a time. The unilateral emphasis is unusual since most qigong exercises are done for both lungs simultaneously, but that special concentration on one lung at a time increases the concentration of qi, which makes this a very powerful healing exercise. You can do this for the common chest cold and for all serious diseases of the lungs.
Begin with feet close together, hands crossed and touching the chest over the lungs. The right hand is over the left lung and the left hand is over the right lung.
Take a slow, relaxed breath and think of your lungs there under your hands. Make a mental connection between your hands and your lungs.
Step to the side with the left foot.
Inhale, shift weight to the left leg so that the left lung is lined up over the left knee. At the same time, open the arms and slowly, swing the hands forward and then laterally out until the arms are extended to the side with fingers up and the palms facing away from the body. Left knee is bent, right knee is straight.
Think of inhaling a white healing mist into the left lung only.
Exhale, step back to center with the left foot, straighten knees, the hands return to the chest, cross them so that the right hand is touching over the left lung. The left hand touches over the right lung.
Think of exhaling grey smoky toxins from the left lung only. Although both hands are touching your chest, your focused intention goes to the left lung only.
Repeat for the right lung by stepping to the right, etc. Do 8 repetitions, alternating left and right.
The complete set of Autumn Qigong exercises, along with suggested foods and herbs for seasonal health, are fully described and illustrated in chapter 8 of Qigong Through The Seasons.
Ronald H. Davis is an acupuncturist and chiropractor. He has been practicing Qigong since 1986 and is the founder of The Health Movement, a group of classes and educational materials designed to improve a person’s wellbeing through the use of traditional and complementary healthcare methods. Ronald offers classes in Qigong, Taiji and spinal healthcare and lives in Bozeman, Montana, USA.
Summer begins in early May according to the lunisolar calendar. Both the lunar phases and the solar year are combined in this traditional calendar used in many Asian cultures. Seasons are determined by the amount of sunlight striking a particular region of the earth. The months of May, June and July have the greatest amount of solar radiation in the northern hemisphere with the summer solstice being the midpoint of the season. Therefore, to get maximum benefit, we should begin our summer qigong practice in early May 2015.
Excerpt from Qigong Through The Seasons by Ronald H. Davis:
“Summer energy urges us to get moving. We want to be outside more often, we wear fewer clothes, and are in closer contact with nature. We like to spend time in joyful physical recreation and gatherings with friends. Summer stimulates creativity, which we may express with building projects, designing gardens, making music, art objects, and party decorations—anything that gives us warm pleasurable connections to people and outdoors adventures. During this season of splendor and shining fire, the energy of nature grows outward with color, warmth, and radiance. Now our Spirit comes alive with expansive awareness; it wants to make intimate contact with all the elements of heaven and Earth.
During the Fire Phase we feel that our Heart Qi, which was fueled by the Rising Yang Qi of spring, has come into full bloom with expressions of joy, compassion and a mysterious yearning for divine contact. The exuberance of fire, when controlled and cultivated, can be refined and directed toward the ultimate purpose of being human: spiritual awakening. However—if not properly harnessed—the great blazing of summer’s Supreme Yang Qi can scorch our Heart and mind. Summer Qigong practice will show you how to feed the Heart Network without getting burned.”
Qigong Through The Seasons presents a complete program of qigong exercises, specific meditations, foods, and tonic herbs that will keep you naturally healthy during the exciting summer season. Based on the author’s thirty years of clinical practice, personal training, and public teaching, this fully illustrated book will show you how to harmonize with the ever-changing energy of the natural world.
Noel Plaugher shares insight into the martial arts exercise featured in his new book, Standing Qigong for Health and Martial Arts – Zhan Zhuang, and encourages readers to be more present in the moment.
“My book is about a still form of exercise that incorporates mind and body, and I hope that aside from the physical, readers will take heart and embrace the idea of being in the present. It sounds cliché but it seems all of us are involved in everything but the world in front of us.
In our hectic and busy lives we forget that there must be moments where we stop for a time and look around us, or simply close our eyes and be in the present. I am not talking about having a full blown meditation on a commuter train, although what the heck, you may want to try it. I try often to do this, to have these small moments (not full blown meditation on a commuter train) as I work extraordinary hours and small breaks are nirvana to me. Even for a minute or two I have found it beneficial to walk outside look at the sun and sky, take a deep breath, and think about what is happening at this moment in time. It seems like the enemy for these moments are those devices which were sold to help us save time and make things easier. I haven’t really seen that materialize. Have you?
I am disappointed that all of the science fiction movies and TV I watched as a kid that painted such a rosy picture of the future, didn’t happen the way they described. I don’t mean the flying cars, which I guess, will never happen, I mean the promise of the ease of daily activities. The one thing I noticed in science fiction was that no one was ever in a hurry. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, when Dr. Floyd is briefing the others on the space station, they were completely relaxed. They were talking about other life in the universe and they could have been discussing color swatches for interior décor. “Open the pod bay doors, Hal,” And this is when Bowman is facing death in the vacuum of space! Sure, Star Wars has some excitement, but they are shooting lasers at each other. I don’t see that I have more leisure time because of technology, and that machines are doing things for me, so I can relax on the couch. Like most people I have ended up serving the machine! Now we work everywhere. Is that an advantage? Only to the work, I think.
We are all tethered to devices that are merciless task masters. ‘Ding!’ There is a text! ‘Swoosh!’ That is the email asking about the text. ‘Swoosh!’ There is that Facebook post from the kid who sat in back of me in high school. He found me on Facebook and now I look at his posts of his family vacation and ‘like’ pictures out of some kind of bizarre obligation. ‘Ding’ a text reminding me about something that I didn’t forget, but the text requires that I respond so that the other person doesn’t get offended. Now I insert the proper emoticon and…’Swoosh’ email arrives notifying me about a picture of a plate of food that someone thinks is incredibly important. With the internet, you can read just about everything ever written by Joseph Conrad, but we use it to send pictures of plates of food. For some reason we do all of this while life is streaming by and we give it barely a notice. What the heck!
These devices are so insidious they have wrapped their tentacles around our children as well. (or did we do the wrapping?) We are often found staring stoop shouldered at our palm size czars while our children are enthralled by a screen encompassing their entire field of vision, and we all MUST HAVE IT! What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Look at this device! Look at all the things it does! Perhaps we need to be asking if we need it to do all of these things.
I have stood talking to people looking at a phone, with earphones in their ears, and they have told me: ‘Don’t worry, I’m paying attention to you.’ Really? I beg to differ. Two of their senses are occupied and tasting me is out of the question.
Usually, we think of the phone or other device as our connection to the world, when in fact it is the exact opposite: It is our disconnection from the world. The world is happening in front of us and all around us. Do we even notice? Often I am criticized for not taking pictures of events. But I refuse to do it. I don’t want to document my life for myself or anyone else. I want to experience and live it. Not to mention the fact that I don’t think my life is all that interesting to anyone but me. A few events, may be worthy of note, but a daily dose of minutiae?
So are we disconnected? How disconnected can we be? Laws have had to be passed so that we don’t type one fingered messages to others while driving a one ton death machine on a public road! Now THAT is disconnected.
So what do we do? I don’t suggest turning your back on technology. That is unreasonable. I only think we need to be prudent in its use. Give attention to what is important, and realize that what you give your attention to, whether we realize it or not, is what is most important to you at that moment. Once when I was pushing my son on a swing and checking my email on my phone, I realized that what I was looking at was the most important thing to me at that moment. That really struck me, so I put it away and when I am interacting with my son I make sure I give him the same attention I demand of him.
What about emergencies? Let’s face it if we ever only used our devices for emergencies they would be dusty and full of cobwebs. If we put them away for a moment nothing will happen. Sadly, we all must realize that we are not as important as we think we are, and we are really only important to those close to us. How often do we give our time and attention to others at the expense of the ones that care about us?
So what do we do? There are small things we can do, and I have provided some suggestions below. However, having an overall awareness of the fact that we are making choices is important. We are not helpless, unless we choose to be.
These are some things that I have found useful.
- When you are by yourself, periodically, at least once a day, turn off your phone, or at least the volume, and be alone with your thoughts. If you have to ask what you should think about, do this more often than you were originally planning.
- Require full attention of those that interact with you. No checking texts while speaking with you. No glancing to see if anything came in. I have instituted a “walk away” policy for myself. If when speaking with someone they choose to do other things, so do I.
- Do the same as above for others. (How often did I catch myself doing this stuff? Too often.)
- Look in the night sky and try to find a constellation of any kind.
- Look at the daytime sky and observe the clouds or anything that is there.
- Stop and think about how you are right now. What do you feel?
- If you don’t like your child spending so much time on a device, then make it stop.
- Breathe deeply by inhaling for a count of 5 and exhaling for a count of 5.
- Choose to use technology to make your life easier and realize that nothing is an emergency but an emergency.
When I was writing my book I tried to talk about being present, as standing qigong is definitely something that helps cultivate this practice, but I wouldn’t want someone to think that they can’t simply start being present immediately. I hope you read my book and the others that are coming. Now, turn off your ringer and try the suggestion where you take in a breath for a count of 5 and then exhale for a count of 5. Do it now. Breathe in: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Great! Now, without holding your breath, breathe out for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. There, that is it. Look around you. Look up, look down. This is where you are. Doesn’t that feel good? This is where you are.”
It is a common theory in all the Chinese internal styles that the qi of the dantian must reach the tips of the fingers, although, how this is accomplished may differ majorly among different arts. The purpose is to make the strikes felt deep within the opponent’s body without damaging your hands. The training of such a skill, besides the internal cultivation practices, usually involves some form of punching or hitting to strengthen the ligaments of the hands, and also to make the hits (and touch) soft, powerful and precise, able to reach deep inside.
Crossing over to healing, such a skill is also very important, because in your tuina you need to protect the health of your hands from harm, and in acupuncture also ensure that you have the correct kind of energy that reaches deep inside the patient’s body to activate the points and channels.
The best tuina manuals usually offer some Neigong exercises designed to cultivate the right skill. Most of them include rigorous meditation while the hands work on a sand bag or a variety of other equipment. However, even such important skills become quite rare these days, because it may take some time to acquire them.
But let’s see some old exercises:
Exercise example 1: A traditional old Beijing Tuina method for teaching the hand method for the character for grasping (拿) was as follows:
“A small bucket of water was immersed inside a bigger bucket of water. The handle of the smaller bucket was attached through a leather cord to the outstretched hand of the practitioner, palm facing down. During this exercise the student had to sink the Qi to the Dantian, and then by using the round force (浑圆劲) of the whole body pull the bucket out of the water and then insert it back into the bigger bucket, without any spillage. After achieving the comfort force and the ability to assume a balanced and energy conserving posture, they would have to start meditating upon the character for grasping (拿) for the hands and rise and sink (沉-浮) for the body. Most of this exercise is happening first mentally and then physically. Movement should be soft and focused.”
Exercise example 2: This is an exercise used for the method of hitting (打) the back of the patient by using a split bamboo stick. For this skill, if the amount and type of force is not correct, it can result to damaging the muscles, skin and ligaments of the patient. An old Beijing exercise for this was as follows:
“The doctor assumes the Hun Yuan position, holding a split bamboo stick, or a Taiji long ruler, or just merely visualizing holding one. The Qi sinks to the Dan Tian, and the doctor relaxes every part of his body, until achieving a feeling of being suspended up from strings attached to the body, much like a puppet. The doctor should visualize being inside a Great Balloon that has its center in the Dantian. The outer walls of this “Great Balloon” have many hooks and barbed wire, which prevents it from moving towards any direction. The doctor however, should try to mentally move it by using his intention (意) but not any physical force, while working out all the related energetic contradictory forces (矛盾力) within his body frame. While moving the sphere with the power of the Dantian, the stick always follows the movement of the whole body, but never leads or dictates the direction. At the point (点) where the movement of the whole body stops and changes direction, the doctor should be meditating on developing the correct snapping force that is needed in hitting the back of the patient with the split bamboo stick. Most of this exercise is happening mentally, rather than physically. Movement should be soft and slight.”
In a similar way, internal cultivation for acupuncture needling should have a specific healing purpose, direct effect and an exact training methodology, based on appropriate understanding and application of Chinese energetic theories and correct body mechanics. This training should be primarily and directly applied towards treatment, exclusively in the clinic, as an unambiguous and solid therapeutic skill, where rational theory can be coupled with reasonable and consistent benefits, for both the healer and the patient.
In my latest book, Developing Internal Energy for Effective Acupuncture Practice I have included a complete training regime for assisting the energy aware practitioners to enhance their needling skills and transform their medicine into an extraordinary experience. With time and effort, perhaps one can discover the fine subtleties of the system at the energetic level.
Disclaimer: This article provides only simplified instruction for the above exercises, and purely for the sake of theoretical discussion. You should not attempt any of these without professional guidance from a certified teacher. The author of this article and the owner of this blog are not responsible for any harm that may be inflicted through the erroneous application of the information provided in this article.
Ioannis Solos studied Traditional Chinese Medicine at Middlesex University and the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. He enjoys researching, teaching, practicing and critically interpreting the ancient philosophy and culture of China, internal martial arts, health preservation practices, classic medical texts and lesser-known Chinese esoteric traditions.