Michelle Wood, 6
Interview with Michelle Wood
I really appreciate how the wellness approach permeates all of your responses. The idea of doing nothing for thirty minutes as an approach to healing and health is counter-intuitive for so many due to social programming. For me, the definition of health is "quality of life" and meditation is an obvious and immediate answer as it asks us to start dropping all of what is working against simple natural energy patterns. After all, even "transcendence" and the spiritual aspect that meditation is so often associated with is just more "quality of life" in the form of mindfulness and joy. It IS really all about wellness, from relaxation to living more fully in the present moment.
I get that from all of what you have been saying here. We have only touched on qigong in this interview- due to my excitement about the wide range of meditation-related experiences and insights you have to share. I know you have a blog as well, and perhaps you can share a bit about what is going on there. Do your posts there offer details on qigong meditation practice? I wonder too if qigong is something I could just start doing by myself, or is formal instruction necessary?
I agree that "quality of life" is extremely important because it is an indicator of enjoyment. If a person takes little or no joy in life, no matter the physical condition, the quality suffers tremendously. My qigong blog, Be Well with Qigong at http://bewellqigong.blogspot.com has a little of everything. There are posts with specific information on the three styles that I teach; the Eight Pieces of Brocade, the Eight Healing Sounds, and the Five Animals Frolic. This includes articles, some videos from YouTube, research reports, anything I think that people will find interesting and useful.
I typically do not write "how to" articles since there are so many books on qigong available, but I do sometimes write about the different positions in relation to Chinese medicine, and how and why the different postures are especially beneficial for certain pairs of organs. (In Chinese medicine, organs are regarded in yin/yang pairs; the heart is paired with the small intestine, the lungs with the large intestine, the liver with the gallbladder, the kidneys with the bladder, the stomach with the spleen. Any movement designed to help one will help both.)
There is also more general information on qi, breathing and meditation practice- the benefits of qigong for children, research reports on the general use of qigong in wellness treatment, and so on. One really useful article describes how to do the "Healing Smile" or "Inner Smile" qigong where you simply sit and breathe, and smile at each organ pair, using your imagination and intention to effect healing. This is one of those practices that can seem too simple or easy to work, but it really can make a big difference!
When it comes to learning qigong, there are certain forms that you can learn only from an instructor. These are the specialized forms that have a lineage, that have been handed down from teacher to student through the decades and centuries, and are best taught by a qualified instructor. However, there are many beneficial forms that are lineage-free, that frequently have several variations on the practice possibly because they developed in several different geographic locations over time.
Typically, these are the forms you will find in book and video format making qigong a practice that you can very easily start doing yourself. Two that I frequently see are the Eight Pieces of Brocade and the Five Animals Frolic. Sometimes there is no form at all- no prescribed series of movements, just a collection of different postures, and those are fine, too. I believe that when you seek a practice like qigong, the forms or postures, the books or videos you need will "speak" to you- you will be intuitively drawn to the ones that will be most beneficial for you at that time.
If you have a particular health challenge or wellness issue, I believe it would be beneficial to work with an instructor. You will get enhanced benefits from your practice if you practice mindfully which includes some knowledge of the Chinese medicine energy channels and pairs of organs, and how these support each other, and using the mind to direct the energies along with doing your postures. (Qigong is, after all, a Mind-Body practice. If you are not using your Mind, you are not doing qigong!) Some qigong books include this information, some do not.
Books also tend to include the most general information on using qigong effectively to reduce disease, and may not tell you things about the energy signatures of the organs and how to use them. (For example, if you have a stomach issue, doing qigong postures that benefit the heart help because the energy signature of the heart creates or supports the energy signature of the stomach.) If you have a health issue that is not mentioned in the books, it would be valuable to consult an instructor to see if he or she can advise you on which movements relate to your condition and how best to effect your healing.