Enhancing Qigong with Mindfulness

Why Mindfulness? you may ask. It’s the latest thing. Are you just jumping on a bandwagon?

Well, that’s what I’m trying to find out myself. I first came across the term in relation to buddhist studies many years ago, probably as part of yoga. It wasn’t something I ever thought of as a subject on its own. Yet I’ve been intrigued to discover recently that many of my Taiji and Qigong friends and colleagues have qualifications in or teach or practise mindfulness, sorry Mindfulness, since it has now clearly become something in its own right.

I don’t believe it is possible to practise Taiji or Qigong without being mindful – at least as I understand the term – focused and aware of the consequences of one’s actions. Yet if so many people I respect are offering Mindfulness as something of value to clients who are looking for a way of dealing with stress, and getting more out of life, then I have something to learn.

Too many choices?

We have many choices available to us these days in terms of therapies and self-healing practices so how do you choose which one is going to see you through? Do you try them all or concentrate on one?

It partly depends on whether you want something to enhance your lifestyle and ability to get things done well, rather than just survive, or whether you have developed a condition of some kind, say, depression, which needs to be supported. I suspect all these options are beneficial. The choice will be down to the teacher, the availability of classes, and, most significantly, your own self discipline, because, let’s face it, unless you’re going to practise at home, you’re asking an awful lot of an hourly session once a week. So find something you enjoy.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with dabbling until you find something that works for you, but when you do find that something, the benefits of practising in depth and thoroughly, are manifest. For this reason, I am looking forward to finding out how Mindfulness can help my Taiji and Qigong practise and have invited practitioner Karen Fenna to come to Tarbert and show me.

karenKaren’s Mindfulness workshop, on the 12th of November, will show new ways of relating to our experience that enable us to handle thoughts and feelings differently. Instead of either becoming sucked into problems, or trying to avoid them at all costs, we learn to break free from habitual patterns and see things from a different perspective.
We will learn greater awareness of feelings, sensations and thoughts that are normally out of the ordinary field of awareness.
There’s more information here. A generous part of the workshop will include physiological topics such as breathing and posture, walking and (yes!) qigong exercise. I hope that you too will be interested in coming and finding out a bit more.

October Workshop, with Promise

I’m really looking forward to teaching Roger Jahnke’s Healing Promise of Qi workshop for four reasons.

Firstly because it’s one of my favourite qigong forms – it’s often the one I do in the morning to help me find the right energy for whatever I’ll be doing that day.

Secondly, it’s a simple and logical form to understand, with the moves mirroring the intention.This makes it easy for newcomers to qigong to follow and practise with focus quite quickly. Though based on ancient Chinese philosophical practices, it was developed by Roger to be accessible to sceptical Western minds.

Thirdly because it found me at a time when I needed it. There’s a saying “When the pupil is ready, the teacher appears”. Whether this means that I (the pupil) was ready and Roger (the teacher) appeared (at Tai Chi Caledonia) or whether it means that I, the pupil was ready to turn into the teacher, I’m not sure, but either way, it’s what happened, and I’m grateful.

And fourthly, though not lastly(!) the workshop will be held at the home of the inspiring Liz Gaffney-White. Heartfelt By Liz is based at Dalmally Station, which her partner Graham has been restoring for several years. Although a working station on the Glasgow to Oban line, it is also a local history museum and the space allows Liz to run felt and other craft workshops either in the station waiting room, on the platform or in the beautiful yurt. It’s an opportunity to ogle the wonderful items she exhibits and sells.

Assuming we will be in the yurt, numbers will be restricted, so I’d advise booking as soon as possible for this full day course, which includes lunch.  There is also accommodation at the station for anyone travelling or wanting to make a weekend of it.

Shibashi Workshop

I am very sorry to have to announce that the Mindfulness and Shibashi workshop on 23rd April has had to be postponed. Sadly Helen is not able to join us this weekend, though we hope she will be able to come later in the year.

Full refunds will be given through the system to those who had booked. Instead I will be happy to run a half day shibashi workshop, say 10-12 for £20 if anyone would like to do that. Please get in touch with me by Tuesday 19th, so that I can let Stonefield know.

Other than that, the next workshop will be after the summer!

Back to the Day Job

There’s this guy called Ronnie. He was the centre of the taiji world in Scotland – yes, I know that’s a big claim, but he edited and produced the tai chi union magazine and he founded and has run an amazing annual festival of taiji called Tai Chi Caledonia for 20 years. Through his contacts he has spread incalculable knowledge for which people all over the world are grateful.

Continue reading “Back to the Day Job”

A Change of Plan

Following the recent death of one of my teachers, I’ve decided to make the next workshop on Shi Ba Shi. We’re looking at the 23rd of April at Stonefield Farm Holidays (An Tairbeart) and I’ll post a link to the bookings in due course.

Ronnie taught us this at Tai Chi Caledonia without speaking a word. We just stood in a circle and copied him. Although he appeared to be focused on the grass in front of him, if he repeated the moves more than six times, we knew one of us was not getting it right and he was waiting until we did. To this day I have no idea how he managed to see us all!

Ronnie loved the simplicity and versatility of shi ba shi and taught it at his classes in posh leisure centres, workplaces, cancer centres and prisons. In addition to the first set, which we will be doing, he taught the second set and was pursuing a version of a third set.

When he came to Samye Ling to teach it at the qigongtauk course he did use words, some of them not very p.c. at all. But he made us laugh and he looked after everyone in the class, those who found it easy and those who struggled. 

I’m delighted to say that Helen Davison will be joining me for this workshop. Helen, from Carlisle, is also a mindfulness teacher, so she will be including some mindfulness experiences. We believe this will be a fascinating combination for those wishing to explore the spiritual side of qigong exercises and for those who enjoy the gentle movements.  I hope you’ll join us!

 

Silk Reeling Practise

Our next workshop will be based on the Ten Principles of taiji and qigong, first mentioned in The Canon of Taiji Chuan.

I studied these with the inspiring Barry McGinlay of the Tai Chi Life School at Tai Chi Caledonia one year. Like most worthwhile exercises, they are easy to say, but not so easy to do. It’s all very well listing the ten principles and talking about them but how do you practise them in a workshop? 

Since they are very much about linking upper and lower, inner and outer and so on, what we need are simple exercises that use the whole body. We want to be able to feel the way energy moves from the earth, through bubbling spring (yong quan) in the foot, up the legs, through the waist, up and through to the fingers. We repeat these exercises (as) many times (as you wish) so that you can explore the effect we are concentrating on.

If you already practise taiji, you already know a number of suitable exercises, such as brush knee twist step and fair lady works the shuttle. In the workshop, I’ll be offering silk reeling exercises.

Silk was and still is an important product in the Chinese economy. The silkworm larva wraps itself in a cocoon. To obtain silk from the cocoon, it has to be drawn out or reeled out extremely carefully. The action must be smooth and consistent without jerking or changing direction sharply. If you go too fast, the silk thread becomes too thin and breaks. If you pull too slowly, it sticks to itself and becomes tangled and lumpy. Thus, silk reeling is a highly skilled art. The movements are continuous, cyclic, spiralling and performed at constant speed – exactly what we are looking for in a taiji exercise.

Silk reeling can be practised single or double handed, solo and with a partner. The movements trace a taijitu (yinyang symbol) pattern using the waist while shifting the weight from leg to leg.

It’s a very popular exercise in Chen style taiji and I also spent a week at Caledonia with Master Wang Hai Jun, who makes them look wonderfully elegant and effortless. If you want to do some homework in advance, here’s a link.