We use lots of analogies from nature when we talk about qigong. We often describe the movement and state of energy as being like water, or sometimes fire, or light. We draw inspiration from nature and the elements around us to help us to understand the natural processes within ourselves. In this discussion about developing your qigong practice, we will make extensive use of the analogy of the wood element, specifically growing a tree, perhaps with a sprinkling of the other elements thrown in.
Start as a seed
For each of us, our qigong journey may begin differently. But at the beginning we are like a seed, probably largely unaware of our own energy and with little skill in directing or working with it. Then something catches our attention. It might be reading an article, watching a demonstration, maybe receiving a qigong treatment. Somehow we are exposed to the energy of qigong and and like water it starts the process of germinating our seed. Having experienced a glimpse of the possibilities of qigong we are curious and want to know more, we may start to attend regular qigong classes, or practice at home using books, dvds, or online videos.
We are now a beginner qigong student or enthusiast. It is fascinating to explore those first hints of awareness of our lifeforce energy. But we are young and tender and need nurturing if we are ever to become strong and truly skilled in our qigong. We need to water our curiosity with regular (hopefully daily) practice to support our growth and development. It doesn’t need to be a lot, but it does need to be regular, otherwise our curiosity may easily fade, and our interest in qigong will wither and not develop into anything of use to us, much like so many other passing interests.
If we do nurture this curiosity with regular practice, before long we will want to learn more, understand more, figure out how this qigong stuff really works. We might seek out more in depth courses and training, workshops, maybe even retreats. Our seedling qigong practice is starting to put down roots and gain in strength. Our roots start to spread wider as we seek for new sources of knowledge and understanding.
Developing wide and deep roots
This is an interesting stage of development. You see there are two main factors that give strength to the root structure of a tree:
- How wide the roots spread out from the trunk
- How deep the roots dig down into the earth.
As we look around and try different practices, this is like spreading our roots out wide, looking for different sources of moisture and nourishment. This is very healthy, but we need to be careful as we do this. You see, sometimes when we extend out too wide too quickly we don’t put enough time and energy into these new extensions to our roots, and they don’t gain the strength they need to nourish and strengthen us, and instead they may wither without us gaining the benefit.
So there is a balance to be struck between widening and deepening our knowledge and practice. When we go wide we gain a greater perspective on our practice. Learning new things keeps things interesting and helps us to understand the big picture of qigong more fully. It gives us more resources to draw on to help us apply our practice to our own lives and to help others around us. But as we do this, we must also always make sure we spend enough time to let our roots sink deep. Spending enough time with each practice helps us to truly gain the benefits of what we have learned and let them soak into our being to give us strength and resilience.
So how does this apply to you in your qigong practice?
If you are reading this, there is a good chance that you have participated in one or more of the Long White Cloud Qigong online courses. These are a great way to learn and expand your knowledge and practice of qigong. Each 12 week course teaches different sets of practices, or different aspects of theory relating to qigong. The 12 weeks of course time is generally enough for most students to gain a good understanding of the practices and theory, but… there is so much more to gain from each of these that only comes with time and practice. That first level of understanding from the course is a fantastic start, but you can gain so much more as you sink your roots deeper by continuing to spend time practicing these exercises. For myself, there are exercises that I have been practicing now for literally decades that I continue to gain insight and understanding from as I review and deepen my experience with them.
Equally, if you have been practicing the same exercises for awhile, you may think you have them pretty well mastered and understood, but then when you study and learn something new it gives you a new perspective on them that helps you do go deeper and understand new aspects of them that you had not fully appreciated before.
So right now, should you extend your roots wide and learn something new? Or should you instead put your practice time into going deeper into what you have already learned? There is no universal answer, it is really a question of where you are at in your own personal development. As you contemplate your qigong practice, you will get a sense of where you are at with it and which approach is best for you right now.
Becoming a strong tree within the forest
What if you have already gone wide and deep? Well, there is no end to that, you can always go both wider and deeper. But there will come a point when you will have gained a certain amount of strength in your practice, and your process of development will start to change.
You see young seedlings and trees rely on the shelter of other larger stronger trees around them to protect them from the harshness of the elements and provide them with the environment they need to grow and flourish. But as you grow in your qigong practice over time you will find that you are not a sapling any more, but one of the might trees of the forest yourself. More and more, instead of relying on the other large trees for protection and guidance leading you to grow straight and upright towards the light, you will find that you need to tap directly into that source of energy and inspiration for yourself. Your practice becomes more and more a personal journey of exploration rather than something you need to be ‘taught’.
As a tall, strong tree, you still gain strength from the solidarity of standing with the other mighty trees of the forest, and in fact you may seek out and treasure those moments when you can practice with other experienced qigong practitioners even more than you did in the past. You also become more and more an independent source of strength yourself, and more capable of nurturing and guiding other fresh seedlings as they sprout and begin their qigong journey.
My aim with Long White Cloud Qigong is to provide the environment, and the right amount of moisture from the cloud, to grow many such trees. Strong and independent in their own knowledge and practice of qigong, with great diversity amongst them, but with solidarity standing together as a forest.
So where are you at in your qigong development?
Maybe you are a seedling just getting started. If so we have several courses starting this month that would be great for you to start that process of putting down your roots. Qigong Foundation Practices, and Between Heaven and Earth both start on the 15th of January and will guide you through step by step to help you really start to understand your qigong practice and gain benefits from it.
Maybe you are a young tree – you’ve been practicing for awhile now and done a few courses. You are probably strong enough that you can start to nurture some new seedlings in your local area along. You might want to think about how you can begin or further develop your qigong teaching to people in your community. Teaching can greatly enrich your own understanding as well as giving you the satisfaction of helping others to benefit from what you have discovered for yourself. I your own practice you might want to consider if it is time to take on something new or if it is more valuable to put your effort into deepening your practice of what you have already learned. If you are ready to take on something new, you can find the full list of upcoming course dates on the website here.
Maybe you have grown quite tall and strong at this point and you are starting to reach into the light for yourself in your exploration of qigong. Wonderful! I hope you are actively sharing with others around you. You will probably really value those moments of practicing with others of similar understanding to yourself. I hope that many of you will come to our retreat in Thailand in May (seedlings welcome to attend too!). But you might also want to take other opportunities to mix with other experienced qigong practitioners. Maybe take a look at the ‘Find an Instructor’ page on the Long White Cloud Qigong website. Maybe there is someone else near you, or where you will be travelling in the near future, perhaps you can get together at some point. You may also find qigong practitioners from other schools in your surrounding area that you can get together with.
Of course even as a strong tree you will have the desire to further widen and deepen your roots. There are more courses coming that will further enrich your understanding and practice… Be patient and in the mean time send your roots deeper and deeper into what you have already learned. There is plenty more to be gained as you sink your roots deep with ongoing practice.
Wherever you are at in your qigong growth: seedling, sapling, or tall and strong tree, we are glad to have you as part of our developing forest of Long White Cloud Qigong.
Founder – Long White Cloud Qigong