Ten Stages Of Qi Cultivation
In The Healing Promise Of Qi, Roger Jahnke OMD outlines what he calls the “ten stages of qi cultivation.” Now, each person’s qigong practice is unique, and we shouldn’t expect or strive to have our practice fit neatly into some predetermined framework. Nevertheless, conceptual maps of this kind can be useful, so let’s use the framework suggested by Mr. Jahnke to explore at least the general contours of a qigong practice. As you’ll see, stages 1-3 deal primarily with physical health and healing, stages 4-6 with mental/emotional wellbeing, and stages 7-10 with the unfolding of our deepest spiritual potentials.
Stage One - Discover Qi
What is qi, and how do we go about discovering it? A common English rendering of “qi” is “life-force energy” and the English translation of the word “qigong” is “life-force cultivation.” Before we can cultivate our life-force energy, however, we first need to discover it -- to establish direct awareness of the presence of qi within our own human bodymind.
One way to discover qi is simply to become aware of sensations of flowing energy within our body. This flowing energy might have a quality of warmth, or of coolness. It might feel more like tingling, or a sense of heaviness or fullness, or perhaps will have an electric or magnetic quality to it.
Bringing Conscious Awareness Into The Body
The way to begin to notice these sensations is to bring your attention, your conscious awareness, into your body. One simple practice to facilitate this is to rub the palms of your hands together until they feel warm, then separate them just slightly, at the level of your belly, and create small movements -- in circles, or separating and then bringing them close together again -- as you pay attention to the sensations in your fingers and palms. What do you feel? Try the practice with your eyes open, and then with them closed -- simply noticing any and all sensations in your fingers, palms or wrists.
Aligning Our Body-Idea With Reality
Most of us are in the habit of thinking of our body as being a more-or-less solid “thing.” Yet at a molecular level our body is primarily water -- a very fluid substance. And at an atomic and sub-atomic level our body is 99.99% space! Blood is flowing continuously through our veins and arteries, as our heart pumps continuously. Air is moving in and out of our body, in a continuous way, as we breathe. And cellular respiration, with its various biochemical processes, is happening continuously.
The point is that our concept of our bodies as being “solid” is really no more than a concept -- an idea which, upon closer examination, proves to be an entirely deluded one. An important step on the way to discovering qi is letting go of this false notion of solidity, and replacing it with one that is more in alignment with reality. The truth is that our human bodies are in continuous motion, within their own boundaries, as well as in continual exchange with the “external” world, through the air we breathe, and the food and water that we ingest.
Once we begin to conceive of our bodies as being in continuous motion, it becomes much easier to “feel the qi” -- to perceive directly the vibratory quality of our bodies. Once you’re able to perceive qi sensations in your fingers, or between the palms of your hands, you might start noticing patterns of flowing energy -- say along the course of particular meridians -- or places where the energy tends to gather, e.g. in the dantians. You may begin to notice that qi can be felt several inches or even several feet outside of your body -- as though your physical form were held within something like an energy-cocoon.
Enjoy the discovery of qi!