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Stage Four Of Qi Cultivation: Purifying Qi

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Senior woman practicing Qigong at sunrise
Kathrin Ziegler

The first three stages of qi cultivation – discover qi, gather qi, and circulate qi – are focused primarily on physical health and healing. We learn to use diet and other lifestyle choices, in concert with our qigong practice, to generate and maintain a balanced and vital human body.

Encountering & Purifying Blockages In The Meridian System

Now, in stage four – purifying qi – the practice shifts to being focused largely upon mental/emotional clarity and wellbeing. This stage mostly is a reflection of how, as our engagement with qi cultivation deepens, we inevitably encounter imbalances, stagnation and blockages within the meridian system. It’s not that these blockages, etc. are newly-created, but rather that we’ve now generated – through our qigong practice -- enough clarity within our attention to be able to consciously notice them. This is good news!

Once we’ve noticed these stuck-places, the practice is simply to generate the kind of gentle intention and purposeful focus that supports us in staying on track, i.e. continuing to practice, which eventually will result in a transformation or release of excess, toxic or stagnant qi – en route to a newly-clarified and balanced flow of life-force energy through the meridian system.

HeartMind As A Wisdom-Filter

Another aspect of purifying qi is to train the HeartMind (Xin) in the direction of intelligently filtering thoughts, feelings, attitudes and philosophies – which we discover to have a profound effect upon the flow of qi through the meridians. What does this mean? It means doing our best to enjoy a “diet” of uplifting, life-affirming conversations, friendships, books, films etc. In other words, when we perceive ourselves as having a choice in relation to nourishing vs. toxic mental/emotional input, we choose those that are nourishing.

Ultimately, the HeartMind is trained to be spacious enough to allow any and all mental/emotional phenomena to simply “pass through” – without sticking – at which point even seemingly “toxic” states can be transformed, on the spot, into nourishment for our practice. We’ll explore this more advanced level of practice more deeply, in the later stages of qi cultivation.

Qi & HeartMind = Horse & Rider

Why is it that thoughts, emotions and attitudes affect the flow of qi through the meridians? According to Taoist yoga and Chinese Medical theory, the relationship between the heart-mind and the life-force energy (qi) of the body is similar to the relationship between a rider and his/her horse. The heart-mind is the rider, and the life-force energy is the horse. Like a horse and rider, the heart-mind and the qi affect each other intimately, and the success of the relationship depends upon both being healthy and balanced.

Toxic emotional energy can easily cause disruption within the flow of qi, which – if left unresolved – can result in physical dis-ease. This is why, for instance, we might practice Healing Sounds qigong to transform anger into kindness or to transform grief into courage or transform fear into wisdom. Conversely, wildly disruptive or stagnant qi-flow can be a cause of mental confusion and emotional upset. On the positive side of things, an “attitude adjustment” can have hugely beneficial effects upon our subtle energies, and an intelligent qigong practice is felt not only as physical vitality, but also as happiness and mental ease.

The Circling & Spiraling Of Our Qigong Path

Though purification is listed here as being the fourth of ten stages, the way it actually happens, for most practitioners, is that purification stages recur at various points along the path, as deeper and deeper levels of old conditioning begin to unravel. During these times, we’re called upon to transform/release what in western psychology is known as “unconscious” material – heretofore “hidden” mental/emotional patterns that have correlates within our subtle physiology (say as blocked meridians or stagnant qi). As a new level of conditioning comes to the surface, we work to release/transform those old stuck patterns with the support of acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage (tuina) and of course our qigong practice.

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