East Asian Taoism Stage Five of Qi Cultivation: Directing Qi Share Flipboard Email Print Asia Images Taoism Principles Origins By Elizabeth Reninger Taoism Expert M.S., Sociology and Philosophy, University of Wisconsin–Madison B.S., Mathematics and Women's Studies, Northwestern University M.S.O.M., Southwest Acupuncture College–Santa Fe Elizabeth Reninger is a Taoist practitioner of qigong, acupuncture, and tuina massage. She is the author of several books on spirituality, including "Physics, Philosophy & Nondual Spiritual Inquiry." our editorial process Elizabeth Reninger Updated July 23, 2018 As our qi cultivation journey continues, consider what we typically take for granted: the remarkable capacity possessed by the human body to heal itself. When we scrape our knee and keep the wound clean, it pretty much always heals itself. A couple days after getting a nasty paper cut, the skin once again becomes smooth where the cut used to be. For a couple days we’re sniffling and sneezing with a cold, but then it’s gone, and we’re again breathing freely. In other words: our bodymind has an inherent intelligence, which is self-regulating and self-healing—which, if you think about it, is one of those “ordinary miracles” that really is miraculous. If you scratch your car, or dent a fender on your scooter, or get a flat tire on your bicycle it doesn’t heal itself. But the healthy human body does. Our Natural State Because the body is so remarkably adept in this way, as Roger Jahnke OMD points out: “In the healthy state where there is little tension and where qi is neither deficient not blocked, the need to consciously direct qi is minimal.” So, once again, our “natural state” needs no improvement. We can support this natural intelligence with simple practices such as Standing Meditation and Walking Meditation, which work gently to amplify the connection to our innate intelligence—but in these practices, we’re making no conscious effort to manipulate or direct qi in any specific way. What to Do When Dis-ease Is Extreme It’s wonderful when our bodymind is functioning smoothly in this self-regulating and self-healing way. However, there are times—particularly within our high-speed, multi-tasking, and generally stressful developed cultures—when our bodyminds experience greater levels of dis-ease than they are able to recover from by themselves. It’s in situations like these that we seek external support to restore balance. This support might come in the form of acupuncture, herbal medicine, tuina (massage), or medical qigong. In such a context, the practitioner will—on the basis of a Five-Element or TCM diagnosis—consciously redirect our qi, in order to address and resolve the particular disharmony. Using Our Qigong Practice If we happen to be qigong practitioners, we can employ more directive forms of qigong to accomplish similar therapeutic results. Whatever the specific practice we choose to work with, we’ll be relying upon the basic axiom of qigong practice (viz. energy follows attention) to consciously direct our qi in a way that, if all goes well, will reestablish balance and ease within our meridian system, thereby resolving the dis-ease. If our dis-ease is experienced primarily in the emotional body, we might practice Healing Sounds qigong, in order to transform fear into wisdom, or anger into kindness, or pensiveness into equanimity, or grief into courage, or anxiety into joy. If we’re experiencing generalized anxiety and/or depression, we might practice the Moon On Lake visualization, in order to fill our bodyminds with rippling blissful light. If we’re experiencing physical fatigue, we might work with the Snow Mountain practice, in order to build life-force energy in the lower dantian. We can use the Inner Smile practice to direct healing energy generated in the upper dantian into any part of our body that is injured or ill. And the Holding Heaven In The Palm Of Your Hand practice supports us in receiving and directing “external qi” in a way that nourishes both our middle and our lower dantians. The Bodymind as a Medicine Chest A simple practice for exercising our capacity to direct qi is to place our conscious attention in a certain part of our body—say one of our hands, or one of our feet, or our lower dantian—and gently maintain our focus, our light awareness there, for five or ten minutes, noticing what happens, at a feeling level, as we do this. Everyone’s experience will of course be unique, but don’t be surprised if you notice a change in temperature, or a sensation of tingling or fullness or spaciousness, in that part of your body. Attention is a form of life-force energy, which we are able to consciously direct, in a way that catalyzes energetic transformations in the places we pay attention to. So we might say: qi is medicine, and conscious attention also is medicine. How wonderful that this human bodymind is a medicine-chest, just waiting to be opened!