The following is a short article written by Tomas Friman who has recently completed one of the Long White Cloud Qigong courses. In it he examines the advantages and disadvantages of studying qigong online vs in a class with a teacher. The article is very insightful.
SOME REFLECTIONS ON ONLINE PRACTICE
I finished the Qigong Foundation Practices online course last December, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts about online study.
I have studied many things from books, internet and videos before, but this was the first real online course I have ever taken, and I have to admit that in the beginning, I was somewhat skeptical towards the idea. I wasn’t feeling very confident of how my qigong study was going to go without direct contact with a teacher. Moreover, this wasn’t an online course on Spanish or classical guitar or something, but on qigong, a sophisticated practice we do with our energy body.
I have a background in astanga vinayasa yoga, and when I started back then, I didn’t even imagine that there could be a practical and efficient option to the beginners courses I took. (One time I studied tensegrity movements from a book, and it was a slow and difficult learning process.) The QFP -course is mostly in video format, but I was still suspicious.
Anyway, I wanted to learn qigong, and there aren’t any teachers in my area, so I felt that the Long White Cloud Qigong’s online courses were probably the best way to proceed for me. I had viewed the videos where John performs the QFP and Between Heaven and Earth -series, and I could tell right away that he knew what he was doing with these movements. (Don’t ask me how, you just know these things or not.) So, I knew that I had found a good teacher, and in spite of my hesitation towards online courses, I decided to begin my studies.
It didn’t take very long before my suspicions and skepticism begun to fall of. (The QFP course is really well structured and made, and it also contains the essential depth I was looking for). And a short while after that, I began to realize how online study might be even better way to learn qigong than the traditional practice forms, at least partly. I’ll explain why I began to feel this way.
Firstly, when you begin online study, it requires true motivation: you got to have it, otherwise nothing will happen. In the traditional courses and classes, the teacher and other practitioners provide you with some extra motivation. I’ve seen many people who just manage to drag themselves to classes and then ride along with the collective wave as well as they can. That’s not motivation.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with group synergy per se. It can support your practice in many ways (for example, people tend to do things better when they know someone is watching, and therefore learn more), but this support is easily abused. With online study, this element is not there.
Secondly, online study requires that you take full authority and responsibility over your own practice, even more so than the traditional courses. The study material comes from the teacher, but there is no one but yourself to help you to apply the information. After the instructions are given, no one is going to take your hand and walk with you through the practice.
I find this to be mostly beneficiary, especially when the study material is good like in LWCQ -courses. Studying this way helps you to be a teacher for yourself right from the beginning, and it is almost impossible to form unhealthy dependency to the teacher’s authority, or to just mimic other practitioners without truly integrating the practice into your own life. In the end, there is only you to answer questions such as ”Am I doing this movement correctly?” and ”Am I truly feeling the meridians and energy if ______ (fill the in the blank)?” And if something really comes up with your practice that you need to ask, then you can always write an e-mail to John and ask (online study is different than, for example, dvd study), but you probably discover that you already know the answer before you begin to write that e-mail.
Thirdly, online study requires more honesty than traditional courses. When doing online study it is very easy to fool yourself with your practice, to overestimate or underestimate your performance. The videos are there to give you a point of reference, but without honesty, they are no good either. You really have to be honest with your focus, how you practice and your experiences, because there is no one there to remind you to do your best. There are aspects of ourselves who are magnificently brilliant to find ways to boost our self importance and/or sabotage our practice, and online study gives you a good opportunity to face them directly.
(By the way, I find it to be a good idea to shoot a video of your practice every once and then. It may unveil some blind spots. Another good option is to take the course together with a friend or spouse if possible.)
These three points, motivation, sovereignty and honesty, are just some features of the practice that online study brings into spotlight, or at least it did for me. I believe that a combination of traditional courses and online/self study is optimal, but if there is no traditional courses available to you, I encourage you to begin online study. It requires more, but it can also give more.
It’s true that the physical presence of a teacher is great, especially in practices like qigong. They can see through your blind spots easily and guide you deeper into your practice through their experience. They also transmit information in many ways that are not available through online study, but in any case, that doesn’t imply that online study is a poor option.
So, everyone out there who are considering to take LWCQ online courses, I highly recommend them. It takes you to a different kind of journey than the traditional courses, a journey that is demanding and not always easy, but if you give it a try, you’ll probably find it very rewarding.