During a recent retreat a long-time student asked about ways to stay open when experiencing discomfort during qigong practice. The ensuing discussion was a mini-revelation for many because it provided unique ways to focus the mind on creating comfort in moments of perceived pain. I wanted to share our discussion in this blog because it is a universal experience.
It is true that some discomfort may arise while practicing, especially for new students. This is usually due to qi penetrating into blockages on any or all levels of awareness. Once the blockage is dissolved, which could take seconds, minutes, days, weeks, or even longer, the pain will mostly or completely disappear.
A common example of discomfort is when a student is practicing a form that requires holding up the arms for a period of time. Interestingly, this can be particularly challenging for those who are quite muscular. The pain may feel like burning, shakiness, aching or something similar.
To help move beyond blockages, here are some simple tips to support you in relieving pain and bringing about more free flow of qi. Remember body and mind are untied and must join forces to create transformation.
1. Focus your mind on deeply relaxing the area of discomfort. Do all you can to let go of the physical manifestation of tension and of the thoughts around the perceived pain.
“Let go or be dragged!” – Chinese saying
2. Focus on visualizing qi penetrating into the blocked area. This will aid in activating qi to flow. Remember it is up to you to initiate qi. Activating the sensation of qi can also help to physically support you.
“Qi is free, it is everywhere all the time” – Unknown
3. Focus on how the comfortable areas of your body feel. This can give you useful information about how it feels when qi and blood are flowing well. Offer this information to the area in pain.
“Ring the bells that can still ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen
4. Connect with your wisdom and ask yourself if you can continue the practice without injuring yourself. Go into the depths of your discomfort; explore the sensations with an open mind.
“It takes a certain maturity of mind to accept that nature works as steadily in rust as in roses.” – Esther Warner Dendel
5. If all else fails and you feel it best to take a break from practicing that which is causing pain, then do so. Place your hands on your navel to conserve qi and acknowledge any sensations as you focus on relaxing deeply. You may sit or lie down if you like.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” Lao Tzu
This series of steps to release pain during practice is by no means the only way. Be open to discovering your best methods in the vast ocean of wisdom.
May you find comfort and allow qi to flow freely.