In the previous post I wrote about doing your Qigong exercises in communication with the elements of nature, the forces outside ourselves, specifically The Heavens and the Earth. Here I will discuss two more, Water and the season of Spring.
What is the essence of Water as in rain, lakes, rivers and oceans? Water has no shape of its own. It is fluid, malleable, adaptable, able to take on the shape of any space it finds. Conversely it is receptive. It can yield to and envelop whatever comes into it without changing it’s own nature. It also cleans and washes away the dirt we don’t want. These are the qualities of Yin.
We humanoids are 90+% water so what would it mean to exhibit it’s qualities? The main thing is to make yourself more fluid like, relaxed, flexible, pliable, adaptable, first in your body and also in your emotions and intellect. It means you develop more flexibility in your thinking and feeling, that you let go of your inflexibilities.
This is actually the main practice of the original, Water Method, Taoism, and is called Dissolving. It is one of the main keys to health and longevity. If this seems counterintuitive it’s because we’ve been taught that strength and assertion are more important keys. Water has the patience to move around, erode and outlast the hardness of solid rock. It moves without effort, without expending energy. What an easy life.
To really get the sense of any of this you might try swimming in the ocean or a river so you can feel it directly. More traditionally folks would just go next to a body of water, the ocean if possible, and try to feel it indirectly. If you have no lake to jump into you could take special note of at least water’s cleansing qualities next time you bathe.
A deeper quality of that big water we call ocean is that it has rhythms, rhythms beyond what we can see and hear but can feel. My first attempt to feel any of these seven “waves” was hopelessly adrift. But eventually, several determined visits to the sea yielded better fish and now I go when I need a big rejuvenation. Your gut, your lower tantien, is the place you get it, and then you can try it with your kidneys which are Water element. Taoist oceanography is too large for this space so suffice it to say that the rhythms vary from c. 15 seconds to c. 11 minutes each way and correspond to your organs and energy bodies. If you experiment, let me know what you find!
What about the seasons? Spring is characterized by a fresh, young, bursting vitality. It brings an expectant joy, especially after a harsh winter. In Chinese medicine it is the element of Wood, of vegetation growing out of the Earth. You could understand Spring as the result of the Gentle Rain coming down from Heaven and the Earth responding upward.
We all know the feelings and the fragrances of a beautiful spring day. We don’t really have to try to feel them; they make their way into us. But you can accentuate them by purposely being more open and receptive. You can consciously absorb that essential spring energy into your body and let it permeate as deeply as you are capable. What does it feel like to be alive and happy inside your cells?
Ask yourself which areas of your body are happy to be happy and which would rather be grumpy. Which are wide awake healthy and which are numb or in pain? Use one to encourage the other. With a little creativity you can make everything feel more glad to be alive.
You might experiment further by taking the Spring energies into your organs and energy centers. For example Spring is associated with the liver but the ambience of it might fit more naturally with your heart center (isn’t it our favorite season for love?)
Once you’ve made a little change for the better, stay with it for a while, for ten minutes or and hour. Keep coming back to it when your mind goes elsewhere. Treat it like meditation. Let it become part of you. “Don’t blow off the chi.”
All of nature’s forces are available to us, of course. These are just two of many, any of which could keep us busy for a long time. Internal or External, Qigong skills require lots of practice. Whatever time you spend working and playing with nature will be rewarding many times over.