I’ve been interested in martial arts since I was a child. I took classes here and there, but I never found the courage or confidence to stick with it. The art intimidated me because I couldn’t fully understand it.
Years later, in my adult life working with Reiki energy, I was introduced to Qigong, a practice of aligning body, breath, and mind for health, meditation, and martial arts training.
So, a few weeks ago, I was thrilled to hear that Qigong master Robert Peng had a new book, The Master Key: Qigong Secrets for Vitality, Love, and Wisdom (Sounds True), and he was leading “A Night of Qigong Ecstasy and Group Healing” at Reflections Center for Conscious Living in New York City. Perfect! I could attend the session first, then read the book.
The Reflections Center is a lovely space, and the room was already nearly filled when I arrived. Everyone was quiet, and I felt all eyes on me as I plopped myself down and started organizing my purse and tote in the tiny space around my chair. I took a deep breath, then tried to shift my mind from chaos to calm. I began to relax, shifting my mind away from the petty things that had been worrying me at the office that day. During the next 90 minutes Robert led us through meditation, some simple exercises, and a powerful group healing.
According to Robert, Qi refers to our “life force, an invisible but discernible type of energy that permeates our bodies, much like an electromagnetic field, and powers our vital functions.” All his teachings that night focused on energy—from the stars, the earth, the moon, and within our own bodies. There is an energy around our organs that we are unable to see. It’s what pumps our heart, makes our liver function, and so on. He had us visualize and move our body in rhythmic sequence to the flow of this energy. Our arms would start at the base of our sacrum and flow upward as we drew energy from earth to sky, then sky to earth. Then we moved from left to right, bringing energy from east to west. It was quite beautiful to watch and feel the energy flow around the room, my mind flowing with it. Robert had us visualize the energy flowing around each of our organs, giving them a kind of psychic massage.
The amazing thing is that I could really feel it as we moved the energy to our hearts, kidneys, lungs, even our faces—healing them and keeping them youthful. He said it was the best facial we would ever get, and I think he was right!
I walked out of the class renewed and recharged. He was the real deal. I would definitely go back again, but until then I’m really enjoying his book and would like to share the excerpt below.
Qigong for Wisdom, Love, and Vitality
While the frameworks of Chinese and Western medical models are rooted in different worldviews, they are also mutually supportive. In the West, a clean bill of health is largely determined by quantitative methods. Neatly stacked rows of numbers derived from biomedical tests establish just how healthy we really are. Chinese medicine, on the other hand, makes its determinations of health from qualitative assessments such as mood, complexion, dreams, and even the quality of one’s voice.
Two words capture the difference between the two approaches: curing and healing. Curing involves external interventions given to a passive recipient. Think medication or surgery. And healing involves the active participation of the patient to initiate a transformation from within. Think exercise and meditation. In the spectrum that extends from curing to healing, Western medicine emphasizes curing while Chinese medicine emphasizes healing.
Within Chinese medicine, there exist various healing modalities. One of the most popular is Qigong, a therapy that integrates slow movement, breath, and visualization to awaken Qi energy and reestablish balance and harmony. Qi energy is a the qualitative measure of our life-force. The more alive we feel, the more Qi we have. We’ve all had good days and bad days and from the Chinese perspective, the difference between them depends on the quality of our Qi.
Qigong divides the body into three basic parts: the head, the thoracic cavity, and the abdominopelvic regions. The center or each of these areas is referred to as a Dantian, or Elixir Field. The center of the head is known as the Upper Dantian, the center of the chest is the Middle Dantian, and the center of the abdominopelvic region is the Lower Dantian.
When Qi flow in the area of the Upper Dantian is healthy and strong we feel intuitively guided. Given a choice between two seemingly good options, we feel strongly drawn towards one for reasons that transcend logical reasoning. The colloquial term for this capacity is wisdom. And when the Qi flow in the area around our head is weak, we tend to feel lost and confused and rely on the opinions of others more often.
When Qi flow in the area of the Middle Dantian is healthy and strong, we become emotionally resilient and receptive. In the midst of tension or conflict, we are able to defend our boundaries yet remain caring and compassionate. A healthy Middle Dantian is associated with the quality of love. And when the Qi flow in the area around the chest is weak, we tend to feel unloved and are more likely to become cruel and cold.
When the Qi flow in the area of the Lower Dantian is healthy and strong, we feel invigorated and attractive. This part of the body is associated with sexual energy and raw vitality, and when these energies surge, we develop charisma. And when Qi flow in the area around our lower abdomen is weak, we trudge through the day feeling like a flat tire.
Qigong movement exercises are designed to infuse these three energy centers with an abundance of fresh Qi energy, and to integrate them along a fourth energy center known as the Central Meridian, an energy pathway that extends from the top of the head to the pelvic floor. When Qi flow along the Central Meridian is strong, we are able to integrate wisdom, love, and vitality. Wise words become informed by compassion and vitality. Emotions are informed by intuition and passion. And actions are informed by wisdom and love.
When Qi flow throughout the three Dantians and the Central Meridian is strong and integrated, a new quality emerges: happiness, the ability to feel good for no good reason. Think of the feeling of inner delight experienced when we hear a favorite song. Now imagine that feeling arising without the music. This is the quality of happiness that is the goal of Qigong practice.
From the Qigong perspective, a clean bill of health equals the harmonious integration of wisdom, love, and vitality as we course through the vicissitudes of life. In other words, to be healthy Is to be happy.
Excerpted from The Master Key: Qigong Secrets for Vitality, Love, and Wisdom, by Robert Peng with Rafael Nasser. Copyright © 2014. Published by Sounds True. For more information, visit robertpeng.com.