When you think about meditating, what do you hope to get from it?
Is it stress relief? Feeling more peaceful? Do you want to improve your health and boost your energy? Do you hope to let go of negative thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, so you can manifest what your soul desires? Do you long to connect more deeply with your spiritual path and purpose?
There are many different styles of meditation that promise many of those benefits. These include progressive relaxation, mindfulness, breath awareness, loving kindness, insight, mantra, and various contemplative techniques.
If you've tried any or many of these, what were your results?
Did you find it difficult to relax, let go of thinking, and find that deeper peaceful place? Did you find yourself fidgety or agitated? Did they leave your body stiff, your mind frustrated, or your heart still longing for that spiritual bliss meditation had promised?
What if I told you there is one meditation style that is easier, feels better, and is more effective in achieving all the benefits you are looking for?
In my experience, that technique is Qigong (“chee-gung”) Meditation.
Qigong is an ancient practice with roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In China, it is often prescribed as complementary treatment for a variety of illnesses and regular practice is promoted as the best preventative medicine. Many begin Qigong to relieve stress, improve health, or boost their mood and energy.
Yet, as you practice Qigong, you soon discover that the relaxation, health, and energy benefits are just the beginning. Qigong progresses in stages from postural alignment and deep relaxation, to inner peace and positive feeling, to greater self-awareness and insight, to substantial states of connection with your spiritual essence, guidance, and life purpose.
Qigong accomplishes this through a combination of standing and imprisoned postures, using both stillness and gentle movement. You might be familiar with one of the more well-known forms of Qigong called “T'ai Chi.” T'ai chi is a standing, moving form of Qigong that is an elaborate martial arts sequence. Most forms of Qigong are much simpler.
My first experience of Qigong was, in fact, learning T'ai Chi. Yet, in the process of learning T'ai Chi, I began to get more and more interested in the meditative, energetic, and spiritual dimensions-which is what Qigong Meditation is all about.
Here are some insights and tips from Qigong that you can apply to your own meditation practice:
1. Practice good posture, both standing and separated
One thing that makes Qigong Meditation unique is its emphasis on Standing Meditation. Standing Meditation is a powerful way to release chronic tension, relax and align your whole body, boost your energy and immune function, and help you feel more grounded, balanced, and confident. Regular practice of Standing Meditation translates to feeling relaxed and empowered in all your activities and interactions in the world.
Seated meditation in Qigong is done sitting in a chair, which is both easier and more comfortable for most Westerners. Sitting in this way also translates well to feeling relaxed and empowered when you are in meetings, at work, and doing other normally-separated activities.
Posture principles of Qigong, whether Standing or Seated, include:
* Feeling the entire sole of both feet firmly on the ground, parallel with each other
* Aligning your knees, hips, and shoulders with your feet
* Relaxing your shoulders down, while softening and releasing tension in your hands and fingers, and
* Imagining a string attached to the top of your head, drawing your spine gently upright
2. Alternate between persistence and movement
Qigong meditation alternates still Standing Meditation and Seated Meditation with simple movements to release tension and improve energy flow. Not only is this a great training sequence that feels good, it is an important principle to apply through your day.
In general, we sit too much-and that is bad for our health. Your body is made to move and many physical functions (such as digestion, respiration, and circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid) do not work well without you stand and move.
So, it's best to alternate sitting, standing, and movement through the day. This breaks patterns of stagnant energy, stiffness, and lethargy, so you feel loose, fluid, positive, and alive!
3. Focus on inner sensations
Qigong focuses on feeling sensations inside your body-a little-developed inner skill called “interoception.” Focusing on interruptions immediately brings you into the present moment. It also quickly and easily quiets your mind.
The part of your brain that is associated with sensation is deep in the center of your brain, a place that is free from thoughts. Bringing felt feelings into the forefront of your attention allows thoughts to fade to the background, giving your mind rest from the stress of over-thinking.
Feeling sensations also gets you more in touch with your emotions. Yet, it does so in a way that does not overwhelm you. When you feel your emotions as sensations in your body, you tap into the energy and information available in your emotions, without being swept up in the stories of suffering associated with them.
4. Feel the sensation of breathing
Another sensation you learn to focus into in Qigong is your breathing. You tune into the minority rhythm and flow of in-breath and out-breath.
Breath awareness facilitates the insight that all things come and go in a natural rhythm. This encourages you to flow with natural rhythms, rather than forcing things to be the way you want them to.
Breath awareness also leads to subtle energy awareness. In breathing, you draw in oxygen, the energy of life. As you attend to this most basic process, you become aware of the fact that you are a being of energy, fed by the air around you. Your life is intimately connected with your environment.
As you go deeper into the sensation of life energy, you realize that you are intimately connected to the Source of your life. You are embodied Energy, embodied Spirit. You come to know yourself as part of the One, Universal, Life Energy we all share.
Resting in that awareness, you know that all is well. You realize a state of quiet, still, spacious inner peace. It's an awesome feeling!
How would you like to start every day with that feeling?
I invite you to try out Qigong for yourself, either by applying the above principles to your current rituals or by learning Qigong Meditation.
Enjoy your practice!