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I was sitting by the ocean one late summer afternoon, watching the waves rolling in and feeling the rhythm of my breathing, when suddenly I became aware of my whole environment as being engaged in a gigantic cosmic dance . . .
I "saw" cascades of energy coming down from outer space, in which particles were created and destroyed in rhythmic pulses; I "saw" the atoms of the elements and those of my body participating in this cosmic dance of energy; I felt its rhythm and I "heard" its sound, and at that moment I knew that this was the Dance of Shiva, the Lord of Dancers, worshiped by the Hindus.
A single, dancing thread ties the people of the world together into a cohesive fabric. This is our humanness and mortality. We are all born with a similar challenge, borne from the blessing of ownership of this complex physical body. No one escapes this common karma. ThatÆs part of the trip of life on this planet. With this ownership, or should I call it "rental," comes the sometimes immense responsibility of health maintenance. For some, this task goes by almost unnoticed, save the required food and water going in and waste products coming out. This is a charmed karma, of course. For the rest of us, stewardship of this incredible biological machinery takes constant attention. It doesnÆt matter whether our skin is dark brownish or yellowish or reddish or whitish or any combination. It doesnÆt matter if our genetic makeup affords us a small, slender carriage or a large, dense one. The fact remains, inside we vary very little. This is one thing that ties us, that binds our souls to one another. We all can relate to headaches, to belly aches, to sprains, to being tired. We all can relate to the challenge and fears of disease. Our ultimate death secures our mortality and, thus, gives value and sacredness to life.
The ride that is this life reminds us that the body is but a leg of the tripod that upholds our existence. Married to a soul and a mind, the body provides us with carnal pleasures and serves to reflect our overall spiritual and mental condition like a polished mirror. Secured to a mind and a body, the soul can begin to express itself fully through the myriad experiences it needs on this Earth. Married to a body and a soul, the mind can soar as it gathers knowledge and carves our path of self-discovery. Within this three-legged creature, we dance. To the extent that we can discover our own, unique balance, we are whole . . . and once whole, we can truly dance like the free spirits we are. Qigong (Chi Kung) calls us to the dance floor of life.
Qigong (pronounced chee gung) is an ancient Chinese healthcare system. The word Qigong is made up of the Chinese character Qi, which can mean breath or energy, and Gong, which can mean exercise or work. Qigong can be thought of as ôbreath exerciseö or ôenergy work.ö Its roots can be traced back thousands of years, from inscriptions on tortoise shells, carbon-dated back to 2,500 b.c., and to silk drawings of exercise movements found in tombs some 4,000 years old.
These windows on the past reveal that human nature hasnÆt changed all that muchour need to slow down and get in touch with our body, mind, and spirit was as evident then as it is now. To slow down, to become at peace with ourselves is the key to healing. Similar to Yoga, and actually the foundation of Tai Chi, Qigong is a combination of exercise and meditation. It can be thought of as a "moving meditation." Qigong uses deep, diaphragmatic breathing in conjunction with slow, synchronous, Tai Chi-like movements to bring our body, mind, and spirit into alignment and balance. Qigong can be done either standing, lying down, or sitting. I have worked with many invalids who were bound to a bed or wheelchair and found they could perform simple Qigong movements and breathing exercises to help bring their energy into balance. When this balance is achieved, stress is reduced. Relieving this stress on our being increases our immune system, helping us ward off illness. It reduces blood pressure, helps our organs operate more efficiently, and can bring great improvements to our overall mood. Tests in China show that students who practice Qigong actually score higher than control groups that donÆt practice.
Stress is something that we are not always conscious of; it can exist on a cellular level and hide masked by our ingrained insensitivity. The results of stress usually become evident when itÆs too late. Qigong is both a preventative modality and a treatment system. Learning this system to better your own health will inevitably assist you in treating others that are out of balance, physically and spiritually. Medical Qigong is the practice of using your own Qi field, through the movement of your hands and conscious intention, to guide the Qi of Nature into your patient and catalyze the healing process. Qigong teaches the power of the unseen. It brings us in touch with Qi, the energy of life.
Qigong reminds us of the intense power of thought and intention. Evidence continues to support that patients with a positive attitude heal quicker than patients in a stressed environment. Negative energy in the workplace will always show as a drop in productivity. Qigong practice brings you into a relaxed state with its deep breathing that superoxygenates your body. Unlike strenuous, aerobic exercises that raise adrenaline but burn energy reserves, QigongÆs slow movements build and store more Qi than the amount required to do the exercise. This helps to energize you overall and bring more oxygen to the brain. The quality and essence of our thinking affects not only ourselves, but it affects people and things around us. Practicing Qigong with regularity can bring you in touch with the common sense that is your nature, a common sense that is becoming less and less common as the pace and pressures of life continue to increase. How we feel and what we think has a powerful and direct affect on our world . . . and on our ability to heal. The ancient sages of China believed that thinking was a form of Qi, so the quality of our thoughts reflects the quality of our Qi. Thoughts and attitude have a very powerful influence on not only our own bodies, but everyone and everything around us. Qigong reminds us of this in a very tangible way as its slow movements and deep breathing helps to get us in touch with our connection to the world around us. Qigong is a strategy for freedom from our cage of isolation.
The pursuit of freedom burns within each of us, fundamental to our existence as humans. It is mapped on to every one of us like a spiritual genetic code. Within our sameness, our souls dictate a uniqueness. Fueled by our individual karma, freedom expresses itself specifically and uniquely for each of us. The mind, our manifest ego, serves to infuse the individual dose of fear each of us requires to follow our own path, our destiny of sorts. It is probably freedom from this essential fear that is our life lesson. ThatÆs just my theory, but I have yet to see otherwise. When we act out of fear, we are under the egoÆs control. The ego is fear. It is that force that leads us to the false notion that we are alone in the Universe, alone in the struggle of survival. The ego, working through the mind, turns a cold shoulder to messages from the body and turns a deaf ear on the soul. Qigong practice can help us to regain our sensitivity to these signals. It can bring us back to our connection with the Universe. It can remind us we are not alone. To be fully alive, we need to dance . . . and to dance, the partners must move together, as one.
To live in harmony as a civilization, as a nation, as a community or as a couple, we must first live in harmony as a self. This is our ultimate responsibility if we wish to live to our full potential. In every culture, sages are revered for their ability to live in harmony with Nature and with themselves. The outward reflects the inward. It was the great, ancient sages who discovered the acupuncture meridians, the principles of Qigong and the healing qualities of herbs. They knew this information through their intuitive connection with Nature. To live in harmony with Nature, we pursue a harmony of Mind, Body and Soul. To be in balance as a self, we are moved to be in harmony with Nature.
¬1999. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Qigong: Essence of the Healing Dance by Garri Garripoli. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.