What have I seen in Qigong classes? I’ve seen the wrinkled brows of the confused slowly smooth out with an internal experience of comprehension as though their mind’s eyes were seeing a code deciphered. I’ve seen shoulders slip off their invisible sandbags. One elder student had not played the violin for two years then reports one day that he is playing again, shoulder pain suddenly gone. I’ve seen the beginning of incipient self-knowlege, body knowledge grow not from the mechanistic movements of someone distressed and unenthusiastically following his PT’s instructions but accompanied with a sense of self-exploration that goes beyond determination.
We repeat a few rules in Qigong practice to help us retain this special zone, this sense of potential. For instance, it’s not unusual for Qigong practitioners to suddenly discover that they are holding some areas of their bodies in tremendous tension. When we recognize this we make a special effort to NOT correct the postural anomalies yet rather let them resolve themselves just by the fact that we acknowlege them. We tell ourselves, “Don’t crack the ice, melt the ice.” to keep from sudden jerky movements which simply hide the tension somewhere else.
There’s a sense in Qigong that the body is something precous. It is NOT a machine. It does NOT live on “carbs” and “veggies”. There is a deep seated hatred in Western culture to the body despite our so-called and only partially shared “Greek roots” because the ruins of the Greek world are covered by two thousand years of detritus. Regardless of the mindless, unrelenting push of advertising, most people do NOT want to be “ripped”, “hard bodied”, “pumped” or even, believe it or not, “stacked”. They don’t really crave becoming brick restrooms or decorated railway cars. Not cyborgs but sentient beings, looking to be—dare we say— graceful, fluid even, the worse yet, comfortable in their bodies?