Everyone discovers qigong in their own way. When I first began experimenting with it twenty years ago, there wasn’t a lot of support or explanation for the idea of “chi” (the pinyin “qi” had not yet become popular). Chi kung was mostly taught by martial artists, who often had a rather limited idea of chi as being something precious and hard to get, and once you got it you had to defend yours to keep it. There was an assumption that if you couldn’t kick somebody’s butt with your chi, then it wasn’t really there. I later discovered chi is the most abundant “substance” in the universe, that you literally can’t escape it no matter where you go. Wherever you run and hide, the lifeforce is already here! We’re literally swimming in it all the time, it’s the very “stuff” of nature, but we simply fail to recogize its rhythmic pulsation or its pathways.
My biggest problem as a beginner was that I had been well brainwashed by western scientific ideas (empirical materialism), a victim of my own ivy league education. I wanted desperately to believe this “chi” was real, more real than my physical body, but my over-trained intellect was constantly doubting my own experience. It wasn’t enough to stop me from practicing every day, but it blocked me from surrendering to a deeper level of chi flow.
Even when I had an exceptionally “high” chi experience following my practice of chi kung, part of me would ask, “was that my imagination, or was
it real?”. It took me a while to figure out that every experience we have, even in our ordinary reality, is filtered through our imagination, whether it be our conscious or unconscious imagination. I realized that it is not so much that we “create” our subjective reality, but rather that we “shape” the current of life force moving through us. it is silly and presumptious to think that we create the life force itself. Qigong is just a methodology focused on consciously shaping the chi flow for specific benefits, either physical or spiritual.
Sometimes the effects are quite subtle, and so it takes us a while to tune into what is actually happening. inside us. I remember after I first learned to circulate qi in the microcosmic orbit, I noticed a strange thing. I used to eat ice cream every day, my major vice, to counter all the other healthy habits I had acquired. But after I opened the orbit, I suddenly lost my appetite for my daily ice cream. What was going on? It took me a while to figure out that the kundalini yoga I had been doing previously had overheated my body, driving a lot of fire chi up my spine into my head. The ice cream was my coolant. As soon as i began circulating chi down the water channel in the front of my body, I did’t need the outer coolant, I now had an inner coolant. I thought to myself, How Cool this chi stuff is.
Now I realize my experience of the microcosmic orbit twenty years ago was in kindergarden, and the depth of its flow today within my being is multi-dimensional, dissolving levels of my jing (body essence that becomes blood and sexual energy) that I didn’t even know existed. Then later I found myself connecting it this chi flow in my body with levels of shen (spirit/awareness) that I never dreamed were possible. Perhaps the greatest thrill was discovering how yin and yang chi can orbit deep inside the core channel of my body, and generate non-polarized chi (yuan chi, or Original Energy).
Now I see and even feel the chi orbiting in nature everywhere — electrons orbiting around the nucleus of my atoms, planets orbiting around the sun, magma orbiting from the hot depths of the earth to the cool surface and back, students orbiting around the energy field of their teachers, men and women orbiting endlessly around the quest for love and completion of themselves.
It is the same stuff that artists, psychologists, theologians and scientists are all trying to play with and figure out what makes it tick. But the main difference for me, after 20 years of chi kung practice, is that now I experience this fantastic flow of chi and enjoy it, without a doubt.