“How do I find the ideal qigong teacher”? I considered this question some years ago when I realized that my martial arts practices were leading me towards a deeper curiosity of qigong. My martial arts teacher advised me to find a qigong teacher who could support my curiosity.
For the next few years I learned from a handful of teachers. Even though I didn’t find a teacher I wanted to stay with I did learn some important practices, theories and ideas from each of them, for which I remain grateful. I also encountered some aspects that did not feel in alignment with my desires. These included not having the depth of knowledge I sought after or offering enough classes/workshops.
Eventually I met a few teachers in the US and China who challenged and inspired me. I then spent several years quenching my curiosity and mining the depths of qigong. I still enjoy the rich consistency of wisdom and learning opportunities I receive from my teachers.
Today we have the world at our fingertips and can shop online for anything we want, including a qigong teacher. However, it can be bewildering to discover how many choices there are out there. There is a huge variety of teachers and styles, systems and theories to choose from including ancient and contemporary; medical, martial, or spiritual and so on.
Plus with many CDs, DVDs and online classes readily available you don’t really need a teacher that you can meet with or take live classes from. But maybe you want one. This desire to have a personal teacher is a compelling enough reason to undertake a search. Plus, there are many benefits to an in person teacher and it is highly recommended for serious students. A few of the benefits include personal attention to your questions, energetic support in your journey of discovery and amplified qi from the teacher and other students in the classes/workshops. Searching for teachers in your geographic area will significantly narrow down your choices.
The National Qigong Association (NQA) offers these guidelines when looking for a qigong teacher: “Keep in mind the following criteria for choosing a qualified instructor: what is their background and experience; are they of good character; do they treat everyone fairly and with respect; do they live what they teach; do they refrain from making wild, unsubstantiated claims; do they encourage and bring out a student’s highest potential? While keeping these points in mind, remember to trust your intuition in finding an instructor who is right for you.”
I agree with these guidelines with the caveat that you must remember your teacher is human and not a perfect being. You must not put them above you as this will create a skewed relationship and you will likely be disappointed. Even the best teachers make mistakes and can be a little zany or flaky. This is a part of the experience and learning opportunity that comes with having a teacher. You may even notice that sometimes their words may not match their behavior. Remember your teacher is learning, changing and evolving along with you.
“To lead others, one must find one’s own direction.” – Chuang Tzu
An “imperfect” teacher may actually be one that activates the deepest insights and the best opportunities for you to see yourself more clearly. These instances can lead you to more liberation and empowerment. It is one of the gifts of having a teacher.
Of greatest importance is that you not surrender yourself to your teacher. Do not become a zealous disciple. Explore your doubts and trust your wisdom. Remember that you are at the helm, and the designer of your own life, which includes choosing or staying with a teacher.
It is recommended that you try out a few classes to get to know a teacher and some of the students. There should not be any obligation to continue if it’s not a fit. If you decide to keep practicing, be open to exploring new ideas and taking full advantage of your teachers’ training.
If the teacher and the system he or she teaches appears to be in alignment with your goals, you are fortunate. The next step is to decide whether it is time to undertake a consistent daily practice. The NQA website states: “It is recommended by experienced teachers to stay with a form for at least 100 days. A consistent practice is the most important asset you can develop.” When beginners ask, “What is the most important aspect of practicing Qigong?” The answer is always…’just do it.‘”