Gods Playing in the Clouds is an attractively named Chi Gung/Qi Gong set, a relatively advanced one that has always been my favorite since learning it in the early 90s. The physical movements, the outer shells, are very elementary but what you do internally with your joints, fascia, ligaments, blood, breath, etc. is a game of a higher order. Consciously directing your energy flow is yet another skill. Finally you could add meditation. No one ever does it perfectly; there is always something more to fine tune.
The set was developed some 3000 years ago and has not changed significantly in 500 years, so you could say the adepts are happy with it. I find myself wondering about many aspects of it in my daily practice. Perhaps the most intriguing bit is that of the six movements there is one, #3, that’s uniquely different in its outer shell and its energy movement. It’s been said that this advanced set is the bridge to get you into meditation and I’d like to explore here how #3 can take you there.
The simplest way to describe the energy movements generally is 1) up and down your main channels, left right and center, and 2) from center to periphery and back, from your lower tan tien out to your auric fields and back in.
This holds true for 5 of the 6. But #3 focuses on your three main energy centers in your head, heart and belly. Furthermore you only bring energy into your head and belly and only send it out your heart. What is going on here?
Well one of the ways to understand Qigong generally is that you are interacting with the forces of nature, the sky above, the earth beneath, and the biosphere in between. Typically the head relates to the heavens, the belly to the earth and the heart to all the plants, animals and humans in between. So here you might say you can bring in all of heaven and earth but then you open your heart and give it all away. That sounds like a meditation.
Just what makes something a meditation? One thing is it addresses the main issues of life and death, questions we all deal with in all times and places. Another is it implicitly contains many variations, many ways to look at those weighty issues. It opens more doors. It invites more nuanced explorations. And as you open those doors you tend to recognize that you’re doing something deeply worthwhile.
So what do we have here? At its very simplest, stuff comes in to you and stuff leaves you. That’s true of every organism, every entity. Life proceeds by taking in and giving out. Where might you go with that?
You could start with gratitude for the energy that keeps you alive and well. You could appreciate its qualities, the freshness of clean air, the warmth and wet of the sun and rain, the stability of terra firma, the beauty of it all. You might notice that it’s always there, always available, reliably so. That could lead you to trust, to relax.
When you recognize that the forces of nature will be there you can afford to be less anxious, to worry and fret less, to be non attached, to let go and let God, to give generously and without expectation. Are you hearing the universality as well as the individual world traditions?
You could just as easily do this with the negatives as we’ll see in a moment.
Here’s how you can do the #3 qigong exercise very simply. Start with your arms bent, parallel, shoulder width, in front of you and a little above your head. Gently try to absorb the energy of the sky into your hands and your head, inhaling easily as you do. Then drop it and your hands down to your heart and let it all go as your arms extend out a little, exhaling easily. Next drop down to the earth and bring its energy and your arms up your legs to your belly, inhaling. From there come up to your heart and let it all go again. Finally return to the sky and repeat the cycle. Pinpoint focus on your energy centers if you’re able. How many times doesn’t matter but sets of 20 are sort of standard.
As you do this start thinking about things like abundance in abundance out, beauty in beauty out, love in love out, all you hold dear in and out, etc. Or if that’s too hokey for you try storminess, trouble and chaos in and out. That’s reliable nature too. But now you might want to contemplate the temporary qualities. Good or bad, all is permanent and all is impermanent. Which brings up equivocation, but let’s stop somewhere.
The significant thing about this type of meditation exercise is that it is much more than just thinking. You are doing it with your body, your breath and your energy, engaging several of your faculties together. (The more parts of your body you can engage the better.) There is a synergy. You practice at deeper levels.
So while qigong per se is not meditation per se this is an example of how the two can become one. With these few suggestions you can take this wherever it resonates with you.