I am in constant movement. I arise in the morning, make breakfast, brush my teeth, put on my coat, walk down the street, gesture to the cafe owner while ordering coffee, stand waiting for the bus or subway etc, etc, etc. Even when sitting or standing, I continue to move. My heart beats, I breath and my blood pumps incessantly through me. My cells, my organs, my mind are constantly shifting and in continuous flux; they too make their own specific movements and sounds. There are larger movements and smaller movements, automatic movements, habitual movements, autonomic movements (not the same as automatic) and sometimes, in fact very rarely, am I aware of "how I move", or perhaps, more succinctly said, "how I am moved". What is it that moves me? The most simple questions are often the most unfathomable, leading us to unforeseen discoveries if I am willing to suspend the notion that I already know.
Qigong can guide us towards investigating this question. It not only incorporates movements of the musculoskeletal system, but can also bring us in touch with our organs, the fluids—the blood and endocrine system—and, of course, the breath. Chinese medicine connects the organs to emotional states, colors, sounds, tastes, direction, animals and the channels that are the pathways for Qi. Within this traditional medical system, each organ carries a specific quality and, like western medicine, plays a role within the whole, like a community of living creatures that makes up the organism that I call "my body". With this view our bodies become connected as opposed to dissected. Through the movements, sounds and our awareness, we begin to experience our physical bodies as less foreign and perhaps even part of the larger living system of nature. One could say that Chinese medicine was one of the first wholistic approaches to healing and it still remains effective for many of today's ailments.
I recall my first introduction to this aspect of qi gong, and at first I was very skeptical, wondering how all this related to the movements we made, but I continued on, really not knowing what I would find. The sounds are not just sounds, but vibrations or micro movements; the directions we face or move towards are not just arbitrary, as each direction has a quality to incorporate. How often in our lives do we know which direction we are facing? I think of sea turtles or birds being able to navigate vast distances by the capacity to sense magnetic fields to find their way. They know direction in a way that I do not, but perhaps that capacity is within our reach?
So returning to the question: What is it that moves me? If I am honest, I must admit that I do not know. But, by asking the question, I begin to face a gigantic field of study encompassing all of me and more. The awareness: my ability to perceive— sense, taste, see—is still very limited. I might think I am aware, but there is more to take in that at present might seem unimaginable, but I can open to more.
I am reminded of a quote from The Secret of the Golden Flower:
“One moves and forgets the movement;
If action arises from stimulation
Then it is but reflexive.
Ah, but when one moves without will
nor impulse, then truly is this
moving heaven & earth.”
--The Secret of the Golden Flower,
Excerpt, Translated by Sat Chuen Hon
As I began to give qigong in workshops and small classes, I noticed that people had very different needs. Interestingly, qigong brought out the particular issues that people confronted—whether health problems, physical limitations or difficulty understanding the subtlety of qigong. As one begins to practice more deeply, a greater sensitivity and awareness is required and this important aspect leads one towards a unique approach. (As my teacher in his lighthearted way would remind me, qigong is not just flapping one's arms around!) Additionally, within the group class, interests varied and it felt after a time that I was herding cats. The classes that seemed the most satisfying for myself as well as for student's happened one-on-one. So, I gave in to the impulse and began to teach individualized sessions.
Qigong has some 3000 different styles and I wondered whether this vast number has something to do with its adaptability. The principles of the qigong forms are specific and derive from the same source, but the ways to these principles are manifold. As I began to look at this aspect, I saw similarities with the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching (The Book of Change). As one consults this ancient book, one sees that it conveys ideas grounded in the principles of nature and laws of the universe, yet it also relates to each moment and each individual uniquely. I am awestruck each time I confront lines from this book, as I often feel I am being spoken to directly, yet the ideas are related to a source beyond time and space. If I open to this wisdom, I learn something utterly new. As I have begun to learn the different styles of qigong, I see that they are more related than they are different, but each is needed and has its place depending the person and circumstance. And as with the I Ching, each time I practice qigong and if I try to open to where it is leading me, I also discover something utterly new.
Could it be that our uniqueness is close to our innermost natures? And yet, paradoxically as we discover our individual-ness, we find that which connects us?
If you are interested in discovering your unique nature through movement and qi please contact me for an individualized session.
has studied qigong and taiji with Sat Chuen Hon, a Taoist and native of China for several years. Mr. Hon has asked her to carry on this Taoist healing tradition to help benefit others. Ms. Fox received her MFA in painting from Yale University in 1997. Her studio practice, writing as well as her study of dance and movement have been woven together over many years into a rich exploration and inner search. She is a published poet and has recently helped prepare and edit Sat Hon's writings on Qigong and Taoist stories for publication.