After interviewing Chi Center founder and Qigong master Mingtong Gu for last week's paper (read the full interview here), I was invited to be a guest at this past weekend's 14-hour intensive workshop at the Antlers Hilton. (I wasn't able to attend Monday's advanced workshop at the Inner Space at Poor Richard's.)
Learning the basic Qigong practice movements did turn out to be about as easy as learning to ride a bike, as Mingtong Gu had told me during our interview. The aspect that I found most difficult — over, say, a 20-minute movement series — was holding my arms at shoulder level in front of my body. The shoulder sockets quickly become fatigued and go between numbness and tingling and sensations of general discomfort. We were instructed to rest when needed, but the idea was more to push through the discomfort and allow the incoming energy to break through the "blockages" of energy in the body.
Sure enough, I was able to hold my arms up more comfortably with practice and find what felt like tapping a reserve of energy. But rather than that reserve coming from inward, Mingtong Gu assured us that we were pulling that energy from around us. Much like holding a difficult yoga pose for longer than I at first believe I can — and breathing through the discomfort — I found time passing quickly inside the practice, and I surprised myself by taking no rests at all on my second efforts at the few series we did.
I also noticed that my hands became quite hot during Qigong, similar to when I practice Reiki. But as with that healing modality, which I've now worked with for 10 years, Qigong's energy is subtle — it's difficult to quantify short-term progress beyond certain body sensations. I've never personally experienced a quick miracle, but I'm also generally in balance and not suffering a major illness. I can say that I've felt energized and de-stressed by my two mornings of 20-minute practice since the workshop.
As for participant feedback over the workshop's duration, several people shared their experiences, which were overall positive and demonstrative of engagement with the Qigong energies (more so, the "universal energies" around us): One group of women reported a friend not in attendance (who they were holding in the energies, or in prayer, so to speak) who had a vivid dream on Saturday night in which a presence came and did energy work on her brain. One woman who said she had trouble standing for longer than three minutes at a time due to knee pain was able to stand for an entire 20-minute practice session. Many others reported feelings of warmth, lightness, relaxation, minor pain reduction and general sensations of well-being.
Perhaps the most inspiring story of the weekend came from one participant who was battling advanced-stage cancer. She said she'd been given weeks to live and told to prepare her estate several times by doctors already, and was, at her worst, barely able to walk from bed to the bathroom. Her brother urged her to begin Qigong practice, which she at first did mainly with visualizations while lying in bed. Then, slowly, she was able to move her body more and more and work to a regular standing practice. At the workshop, she looked like a regular attendee — you wouldn't have been able to pick her out from the crowd. She was convinced that Qigong was the factor to her improved health.
If you're interested in learning more about Qigong or attending a practice session with local teachers, click here for a weekly class schedule.