What is Qigong?

What Is Qigong?

by Solala Towler





“What is this thing you do?”

he asked, hesitantly,

over the phone,

“this quee gong?”

(The transliteration of Chinese

being so ridiculous

that no one knows how to pronounce

anything they read.

Taiji teachers all over the country

still call it tai chee,

people do divination using the

eye ching,

meaning romantic love in Chinese.)

“Is it a martial art?”

he asks,

“or is it some kind of health practice?”

“well,” I answer,

it is a health practice,

it’s also a meditation practice,

as well as a spiritual practice.”

“Wow,” he says,

“all in one package huh?

What a deal!”


I suppose qigong

could be called

a sort of




Then again,

there’s no need

to get so technical.

Qigong is really

just something that I do,

like breathing,

like eating,

like dancing,

like making love.

Making love

with the universe,

you might call it.

An amorous, attentive,

articulated, attitude

of openness and grace,

an exchange

on a deep and basic level

on my inner being

with that of the great

undivided, unending,

undissolved Dao.

And with that exchange

comes balance, harmony,

a composure of spirit,

a deepening of character,

a relaxing of mind muscles,

a feel of safety,

of being at home,

of being empty

and full at the same time,

of being attentive to detail,

clear of vision,

open of heart,

soft yet strong

like water, like wind,

sensitive to changes

in the energetic atmosphere,

simply joy in beingness,

compassion for the sufferings

of those around me

as well as myself,

a sense of proportion,

of objectivity,

of opening to change,

transformation and miracles,

a greater sense of

who I am myself

and how I fit into

the grand scheme of things,

a deeper understanding

of how I fit into nature

and how nature fits

in to me.


Of course sometimes,

it’s just too hard,

too tedious, too boring,

too hot, too little sleep,

not in the mood,

no time, no quiet,

too much to do,

too much to understand,

too much to remember,

too hard to stretch,

to breathe,

to stop my madly

running mind,

I’m too off center,

too sad,

too anxious,

too impatient.

too spaced out,

too distracted,

too distraught,

too confused,

feeling hopeless,

out of whack,

deflated, defeated,

dissolved in my own

sense of importance

or no-importance.


But still, the practice,

the form,

the breathing,

the focusing,

the exchange

of light and darkness,

of form and of formlessness,

or yin and yang,

in out and out,

all sustains me,

uplifts me

out of my limited

sense of being,

my old tired patterns,

my old empty

emotional, mental,

physical and spiritual states,

those oh so familiar faces

of doubt, worry, fear

that we all carry

from childhood,

those past life

karmic hauntings

that hold so much power

over us

until we learn

to let them go,

release them

gently but firmly

into the great healing

eternal Dao.


As the ancient Daoists said:

We humans,

are stardust,

we are golden,

and we’ve go to get ourselves

back to the garden,

the garden of Dao,

the garden of heath,

vitality and spirit,

using and uniting with

the three treasures,

of jing, qi and shen,

those three shining jewels

of simplicity, patience

and compassion,

those three celestial guides

leading us back

to before the beginning

when Dao gave birth

to the oneness,

the oneness gave birth

to the two,

the endless spinning,

dancing polarity

of yin and yang,

and the two gave birth

to the three, those shining jewels,

those celestial guides,

which, in turn,

give birth continuously

to the ten thousand beings;

all that we see

and know and touch

and feel and experience.


Yes, I say,

this mysterious qigong practice

that practices me,

sometimes a struggle,

sometimes a dance,

but always a wise

and nurturing teacher.

Yes, it is something

that I hold dear and precious

like a light in my life,

like a treasure in my heart,

like a gift of the universe

which humbles me

and feeds me

with the sense of awe

that Laozi speaks about,

the sense of magic

and wonder

that Zuangzi jokes about,

the sense of honor

and propriety

that Kong Fu Zi teaches about,

that full feeling

of hope, serenity,

humbleness, thankfulness

vitality, gentleness,

and enlargement of the spirit

that all the great sages

speak about.

This qigong,

as dear to me

as the smile

on the face

of my beloved,

the firm yet loving

words of my teachers,

The clear-eyed vision

of my children,

the very centermost

core of my being,

eternal, vast

formless yet solid,

eternally present

while drifting aimlessly

thru the wu wei

of my spiritual

exultant, hopeful,

endlessly unfolding life.




The Watercourse Way

teaser_03Solala’s Blog for the week of 2/11/13

One of the things that drew me to Daoism is its deep connection to the earth. It prizes the yin over the yang. For without the earthy yin to act as a stabilizing force, the yang would have nothing to launch up from and would just dissipate. Laozi says, “Know the yang but hold fast to the yin.”

The other great image from Laozi is that of water.

Water benefits the ten thousand beings
yet contends with no one.
It flows in places that people reject.
In this way it is close to the Dao.
Chapter 8

Later on he talks about how water takes whatever shape of the vessel you put it in. If you put it in a round vessel it becomes round, if you put it in a square vessel it becomes square.

So to do we, as students of the Way, strive to become like water – flowing, humble, persistent, flexible and able to take on whatever shape of whatever situation we find ourselves in. (Especially helpful when traveling.)

Later on he says:

Great rivers and seas can act as
lord of a hundred river valleys.
This is because they flow downstream.
Therefore they can act as
the lord of a hundred valleys.
In this way, the sage who wants to be a guide to others
must place himself lower than them.
If he wants to lead the people
he must follow from behind.
Chapter 66

By holding this image of water and all its attributes as the goal of the sage or the self-realized person, we can find much guidance on how to live our lives in communion with the great and ever present Dao.


I would like to send a special invitation to my readers to join us on our pilgrimage to the sacred Daoist mountains of Maoshan and Wudangshan this spring. See the China Tour section of the site for more details. We will hike the trails to the holy temples, practice qigong in the sacred mountains of Daoism and eat amazing food!


Coming Home to Daoism

SOLALASolala’s Blog for the week of 2/4/13

I encountered Daoism after struggling with a long illness (CFIDS for over ten years, until I was completely bed-ridden) and was curious as to the philosophical background to the acupuncture treatments I was receiving. I had been studying Zen for some time but there was something about the stiffness and solemness of Zen that I was not satisfied with. I had studied Eastern thought since the ’60’s and had practiced yoga and meditation for many years. But it was when I discovered Daoism, through the books of Hua Ching Ni, that I really felt a sense of ‘coming home.’

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