In the past it was very difficult to learn qigong without having having live face-to-face instruction. This is because the only resources available for learning in this way were books. These books consisted of descriptions of the principles and practices, often using poetry or highly symbolic language, and simple line drawings of the exercises.
For those who had previously learned these practices from a skilled teacher, these books were valuable reminders of the important principles they should be aware of as they practice. Also people who already had extensive experience with qigong were able to read between the lines (or the line drawings as the case may be) to understand what was being conveyed, but for a complete beginner learning from these books was very difficult as the drawings of the positions in the exercises were often easy enough to understand but the movements that link the positions were harder to decipher.
These days we are lucky in that as well as written materials we can use video recordings to easily show the details of qigong exercises in detail. In addition to this if your teacher is far away, we have video calling applications such as skype which we can use so you can get visual feedback and correction from your teacher. So, many of the obstacles to learning qigong from a distance have been overcome.
There are however some good reasons to spend time learning and practicing face-to-face with your teacher if you can. In qigong as well as learning physical movements our aim is to learn to be aware of energy and become skilled with using it. In the Long White Cloud Qigong courses, our aim is always for you to come to your own awareness and understanding of the energy in and around you through your own personal experience – so your own personal practice will always be your primary source of gaining this. There are times though when by being near someone with a greater skill level than you currently have, you are able to pick up the subtle changes and movements that make with their energy while doing something. In addition to this a skilled teacher may be able to assess the presence and flow of energy in a student as they practice and consciously clear blockages and direct the flow of energy to optimize the student’s benefit and development.
This is not exclusive to qigong, it occurs in other fields of learning as well; it is just that because we consciously focus on subtle energy in qigong we are more aware of it. A student learning piano will be able to pick up finer points of technique from their teacher in person than they can from a book or video, and the teacher can subtly (usually unconsciously) encourage the student to make adjustments to their playing, allowing the energy to flow better, while they are with them.
Do not be concerned if you are unable to have personal contact with your teacher. You will still be able to have a rich experience learning qigong and experiencing energy awareness and skill through your own dedicated practice. But if you do have the opportunity to learn in person, it is a good idea to take it, as this kind of direct interpersonal learning can add valuable details and speed up and enhance your learning and development.
Homework Week Ten:
- This week your homework is to consider your process of learning. Think of a skill that you have developed and then think through how you learned it. Did you have formal lessons? Did you read from books or watch videos? Did you make discoveries yourself as you practiced? Did you have a mentor? Did you practice with other people or maybe in a group? Are there specific aspects of how you perform this skill that you picked up, learned, or copied through contact with someone else? Is this a skill you want to develop further? If so what sources/methods do you think will be most useful in helping you to progress? Go through this process with several skills
- Make sure to write down your analysis in your study journal