I’m moving soon. My landlady’s response to the news was the classic Buddhist/Taoist maxim, “well, after all, the only predictable thing in life is change.” We all know this, but somehow it keeps surprising us. The Chinese were masters of change. The I Ching (or classic of changes) is probably the most well known example of this mastery, but graceful observance of change is at the heart of all Chinese arts including medicine and qigong. The ancient Chinese were so attuned to seasonal change that they developed an entire set of qigong exercises based on two week seasonal adjustments called “qi nodes.” The practice was to do the new posture at the beginning of each two-week period to harmonize with subtle external shifts in the qi.
So lately I’ve been experimenting with ways to tune my daily qigong practice so that it reflects natural cycles, rather than sticking to a rigid plan. One of my experiments is to change my routine according to the phases of the moon. It goes something like this: from new moon to first quarter I listen more and move less. This might be quiet “sitting and forgetting” meditation, microcosmic orbit, or the gentle movements of Blossoms in the Spring (especially around the crescent moon as it’s just beginning to show itself again.) From first quarter to full moon, I work on something a little more active, maybe based on what I learned from listening to myself in the first phase. From full moon to third quarter I do the most vigorous parts of my regimen, maybe even sweat a bit and breath hard. Then from third quarter to the next new moon, it’s a time to trim away what’s unnecessary and find the essence of each move.
There are many ways to incorporate natural cycles into your practice. You might try for instance working with daily rhythms (think about how noon feels so different from dawn and dusk.) There is also the larger sweep of annual cycles and changing seasons. I invite you to play with this in your practice, then write and share your experience with us.