Nan Lu, O.M.D., LAc. discusses the role that acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are playing in the West and the increasing interest in Qigong, a self-healing energy practice and an important modality of TCM.
Nan Lu, O.M.D., LAc
Now that acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are more commonplace in the West, there is increasing interest in Qigong, a self-healing energy practice and an important modality of TCM. People want to know how to find a Qigong teacher and a place to study. There are a few key points to consider; however, finding the right teacher and system is really more of an art than a science.
Because Qigong is such a powerful energy practice, great care should be given to selecting a teacher and a school. This process is not made easy by the fact that there are literally thousands of systems. Some are “instant” systems, created by modern masters; some are ancient, passed down from master to student in a lineage over the millennia. The spiritual traditions that have influenced Chinese culture—Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism—have each left their imprint on Qigong. It is thought that the oldest forms are Taoist and that Qigong’s very root is in Taoist practice. Medical Qigong traditionally has been used in Chinese hospitals and is the form that is currently generating great interest and study in the West. Some systems are related to the martial arts. Breathing and visualization techniques are employed by certain Qigong systems; gentle movements and stationary postures are used by others. It’s important to know that the various Qigong systems work on the body’s energy in dissimilar ways, which is why it’s ill advised to practice different systems at the same time.
In general, Qigong can be divided into two broad categories: systems based on form and those based on message. Systems based on form utilize specific postures and movements that stimulate Qi and heal the practitioner. In form-based systems it is important to follow the master’s directions exactly in order to derive benefits from the system. Here, results depend on how correctly the student does the posture, how much time he or she practices, and how well the master teaches. Benefits are gained in direct proportion to personal effort expended. Connection to the posture and getting it right are the key points.
The second type of Qigong system is based on an “energy message” passed from the master to the student. This message conveys the system to the student—it is like a key for learning and understanding the system, and at the same time connects him or her to the greater Universal energy. In these systems movements and postures are often used, but they play a secondary role; they function as a vehicle for transporting the energy message from the teacher to the student. In this type of system it is the relationship—the energy connection—between the master and the student that is of primary importance. Systems based on message are more difficult to find than form-based systems, and finding a competent master to teach this type of system is rare.
Finding a qualified Qigong teacher is extremely important. What specific qualifications are needed to teach Qigong? The teacher is the link between the system and the student. He or she guides the experience of energy movement in the student’s body. The process of rebalancing energy and opening blockages can create various physical, mental and emotional states which may need monitoring, interpretation and explanation by the teacher or master. A certain level of experience is necessary, but more significant is the master’s level of understanding. Does this individual have a deep understanding of the body’s energy system? Does he or she have the heart and dedication required to teach Qigong? Given these factors, you can be guided by a feeling of resonance with the teacher, or what is sometimes characterized as a feeling of instantaneous connection. There has to be the possibility for a bond to form.
When selecting a Qigong school, a sense of concordance with the teacher should be a good indicator of the quality of the school. Observe the school—particularly the spirit of the school. How does it feel to be there? Is there a feeling of care and connection, or do the students show up to practice and leave right away once class is finished? Does the school have a focus in service or helping the greater community? As with choosing a teacher, going with a gut feeling or your intuition is helpful.
One concept to bear in mind is that the heart of Qigong is the human heart. The traditional Chinese concept of the heart goes beyond the physical heart to encompass the shen or spirit. It is the center from which Universal love emanates, and this compassion is at the core of all systems that promote spiritual growth. Opening the heart is seen as the gateway to the highest form of practice. One key Qigong principle is that in order to change the physical body at a deep level, there must be an opening of the heart. So perhaps the most important thing to consider when choosing a Qigong teacher and school is the following: Does the person and path speak to your heart? Beyond this, the old saying, “When the student is ready, the master appears” has its foundation in truth.
Nan Lu, O.M.D., LAc., is the founding director of the Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation, which sponsors Building Bridges of Integration for Traditional Chinese Medicine, a yearly conference on Chinese medicine and natural forms of healing. He maintains a practice in Chinese medicine at the Tao of Healing in New York City. Dr. Lu has authored three books and numerous articles on traditional Chinese medicine and is a frequent speaker on Chinese medicine, Qigong, and Five Element Consciousness at conferences and symposiums in the United States and throughout the world. Please visit www.tcmconference.org,www.tcmworld.org or www.taoofhealing.com for more information.
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