Is Qi Real? Yes, Beyond Any Doubt
By Michael Winn
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 ch'i (the pinyin qi had not yet become popular). Qigong (chi kung) was mostly taught by martial artists, who often had a rather limited idea of qi 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 qi, then it wasn't really there. Later I discovered that qi is the most abundant "substance" in the universe, and that you literally can’t escape it no matter where you go. Wherever you run and hide, the life force is already here! We're literally swimming in it all the time; it's the very "stuff" of nature, but we simply fail to recognize its rhythmic pulsation or its pathways.
The descending circulation of qi in the microcosmic orbit flows down the conception vessel from the lower lip, through the chest and abdomen to the tip of the spine.
The rising circulation of qi in the microcosmic orbit runs up the back in the governor vessel from the tip of the spine, up the spine and around the top of the head to the upper lip.
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 qi 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 qi flow.
Even when I had an exceptionally "high" qi experience following my practice of qigong, 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 presumptuous to think that we create the life force itself. Qigong is just a methodology focused on consciously shaping the qi 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 qi up my spine into my head. The ice cream was my coolant. As soon as I began circulating qi down the water channel in the front of my body, I didn’t need the outer coolant, I now had an inner coolant. I thought to myself, How cool this qi stuff is.
Now I realize my experience of the microcosmic orbit twenty years ago was in kindergarten, 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 this qi 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 qi can orbit deep inside the core channel of my body, and generate non-polarized qi (yuan qi, or Original Energy).
Now I see and even feel the qi 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 twenty years of qiqong practice, is that now I experience this fantastic flow of qi and enjoy it, without a doubt.
This entry was originally published with the title, Is "Chi" Real? Yes, Beyond Any Doubt at Healing Tao USA.