"Conserving Qi, I protect my inner essence and accumulate the subtle ingredients for refining the inner elixir." Roger Jahnke, Phase 6 Mind-focus affirmation, The Healing Promise of Qi.
For me, Phase 6 is the clearest, and the murkiest, of all the Qigong phases. It's pretty clear that any of the "standing meditations" that I've learned from San Bao and Lam Kam help conserve energy; after all, we're not "doing" much of anything. At the same time, though, we are concentrating, and our arms do get tired when holding them in place, even if they are supported by Lam Kam's "invisible balloons." After 2 or 3 minutes of a standing pose, San Bao often jokes, "Don't worry, it's just the first 55 minutes that are difficult." And he reminds us that some Qigong teachers will only take students who have demonstrated the ability to hold the "tree posture" for an hour. My max so far is 20 minutes. Long way to go!
When I read the 6th phase mind-focus affirmation for the first time, I was immediately intrigued and headed for the dictionary, not recalling the exact definition of "elixir." One definition I found says, "magical medicinal potion." Who doesn't want some of that? Even more difficult, at first, was connecting "conservation" of Qi with creativity. After all, creating is an action, and conserving seems passive. But is it?
Perhaps when "conserving" we are more open to receiving, and also perhaps it's the creation of space, like pauses in speech, or commas in writing, that provide both we as creators, and our "audiences" as receivers, the opportunity to fully energize.
I see Phase 6, Conserving Qi, as the balance between creating and receiving energy, in a similar way that I need to "live life" in order to write about it, whether that writing be songs, books, or blogs. The focus of Phase 6 is on receiving, on not over-expending energy, and as with all effective Qigong exercises, we're both using and retaining energy. There are plenty of paradoxes in both Qigong and in creativity!
It's in the exploring of paradoxes, and of the fine crooked line between fiction and fact, that I find myself most amazed and amused by this life, brought more into and out of focus during this now full year of Covid-19. Recently, someone posted results from a poll that showed an amazingly high percentage of Americans believe all kinds of counterfactuals. For example, one in four believes the sun orbits the Earth. Is that because standard English capitalizes "Earth" but not "sun"? Who knows? And who can blame them? I replied, with more than a bit of snark, to one such post: "Once you believe some bullshit it's easier to believe bullier bullshit." And yet, I am absolutely convinced that some, if not much, of what I believe is now or will be shown in the future to be USDA-grade B.S..
And so I keep practicing, and I keep reading. This week: Adam Grant's Think Again. Grant lands most of his punches, whether on his interviews, podcasts, or in his books, and this book knocked me back right from the introduction. Now, as an extrovert, I am already prone to "thinking again." As you may know, the way to tell that an extrovert is thinking is that we're moving our lips. That said (and therefore thought), Grant's book asks, cajoles, persuades us to re-think some of our deepest-held convictions in order to enter into better conversations.
"Of all the manifestations of power, restraint impresses the most." –Thucydides
By conserving Qi, you're "accumulating the subtle ingredients for refining the inner elixir." To some it may look like we're slacking off, but now you have a creative alternative frame: You are Conserving Qi. And especially while doing a Qigong exercise, "The power is in your hands."
Conserving Qi this week, and we'll be ready to explore Phase 7, "Storing Qi," next week. Until then.....Aloha!