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What does it mean to practice Qigong?

If you've taken a class with me, you've probably heard me say that Qigong is a practice. But what does this mean exactly? It’s worth pausing to reflect on what the “practice” part entails.


The Oxford Languages Dictionary informs us that the noun “practice” means the “actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it”.  It  also defines it as being “repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.”


Let's unpack the elements of these definitions!



Not surprisingly, practicing or engaging in a practice implies a sense of repetition, of doing multiple times.  And the idea behind this concept is that if we do it often enough, we learn something.  By performing repeatedly, we acquire new skills.  And not only do we learn and acquire new skills, but we create a discipline, a habit that will allow us to maintain these new acquired skills.  And after dozens and dozens of repetitions, the gesture, whatever your practice, begins to become habitual, natural, intrinsic to your body.  Repetition allows us to forget the choreography so we can dance with ease.


I've written before about the importance of being dedicated to the practice of Qigong, how when we engage deeply with it, we obtain greater results.  Through intentional and consistent practice, we can observe and feel from within the benefits of Qigong that accumulate over time.  But more than commitment to the practice, it’s actually about committing to ourselves.  It is an act of love, of self-love.  As Michael Singer says, by committing ourselves unconditionally, Qigong can “teach us everything there is to learn about ourselves, about others and about the nature of life.  If you are committed, nothing can stop you”.


Therefore, for me, Qigong practice is not about aiming for a specific goal or developing a higher state of consciousness. This is going to happen whether we want it or not as a result of practice, these are what I call "side effects." But Qigong is more about honoring the journey and embracing the practice itself. Qigong will never completely free us from discomfort, suffering, or our fundamental human nature.  This is why you will most likely encounter Qigong masters or seasoned practitioners telling you that they are only scratching the surface of the practice (I personally consider myself a tiny-tiny-tiny baby Qigong practitioner).  Qigong is a lifelong learning practice.  It’s a lifestyle.  This is the path, the Way.




The second definition of the word practice mentioned above speaks of the needs to “do” something, to put it into action, to perform it.  A practice is not about theory and speculation, it is about accomplishing something, about the process of carring it out. 


This is certainly true for Qigong.


Just as we can’t claim to know how to drive a car by simply reading without ever getting behind the wheel, we can’t learn Qigong from a book or simply by watching a Master demonstrating it.  We have to do it ourselves.  We can read all the books we want; attend all the workshops and masterclasses we want.  If we don’t put what we have learned into a physical and sensual practice, we learn nothing.  We need to experience it for ourselves, to feel it from within, to embody it.


The Century Dictionary notes that the word “Practice is sometimes erroneously used for experience, which is a much broader word. Practice is the repetition of an act : as, to become a skilled marksman by practice. Experience is, by derivation, a going clear through, and may mean action, but much oftener views the person as acted upon, taught, disciplined, by what befalls him.”


If this is the case, then Qigong is an experience!


Qigong is an experience because it transforms us.  If we allow it.  When we let go of inner resistance and put our entire trust in the practice, even if we don’t understand everything and how it works right now, if we trust the practice, spaciousness is created.  Spaciousness in which we can relax and soften and then, only then can insights emerge on how we can actualize our capacity for growth and transformation.



But letting go of inner resistance is the hardest thing we are called to do in our lifetime.  And, ironically it is the practice that ultimately creates the opening needed to allow us to confront our inner resistance.  So where should we start?   


Cultivating curiosity about our practice and engaging in it with a beginner’s mind and without judgment will allow beautiful things to happen.  As we practice and learn, we can borrow the attitudes of an explorer and tend to our own unique experience.  Over time, we become more familiar with all of who we really are, discovering habitual patterns and seeing reality more accurately.  From there, perhaps without even realizing it at first, the practice changes us.  As the saying goes: You don’t do Qigong, Qigong does you!



But the practice of Qigong is not an end in itself.  I am sure you now feel how the heart of Qigong lies not in setting aside a time to “practice” the forms as much as possible but rather in its Essence. And the Essence of Qigong is an embodiment, a lifestyle.

The purpose of our life is to enjoy and learn from experiences.  All explorations, discoveries, insights arise from the integration of Qigong into our everyday lives.


Sustained Qigong practice not only gives us the opportunity to work with the challenges within us, but it also prepares us to face the challenges posed by simply living in an interconnected world.  When we allow ourselves to be transformed by the practice, we become the practice, we become Qigong.  And if enough of us are truthfully engage with the practice, it becomes a catalyst of change. Together we can reach the tipping point needed to change the entire world. This is the theory of resonance: if one family member is one percent calmer, the rest of the family will become calmer as well. Imagine, thousands of us.  Ten thousands of us.  Hundreds of thousands of us, even just ten percent transformed. Can you envision it? Can you feel it?



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