"Gathering Qi, I access and purposefully draw upon the forces of nature for healing and empowerment." –Roger Jahnke, The Healing Promise of Qi
(3rd of the "Create" Series)
Now that I had "discovered" Qi, I just played with it for about a decade, on and off. I didn't know any exercises other than imagining that ball of energy, and then hoping for the "electro-magnet" feeling between my arms to come back. Which it did, more often than not. I learned later, from San Bao in Koh Samui, that he and most Qigong teachers prefer their students to discover the Qi by themselves, whereas in my case, I "discovered" it when the Nakano-based Master adjusted my pose, taking both my hands in his. According to San Bao, that meant the Nakano master "transmitted" Qi to me. Perhaps that's why I couldn't always capture the feeling at will. Who knows? A decade later, San Bao's words fixed all that and pierced more barriers when he said, "The energy doesn't care if you notice it or not. It's there regardless." Ever since then, I've been able to notice it with only the slightest of intentions.
Jahnke's quote above about gathering Qi packs a lot into a few words. I want to go through several components of the quote, share how I relate to them and how they connect to creativity and the creative process for me. "...Access and purposefully draw upon." The first key word here, for me, is "purposefully." On purpose. With intention. Whether it was going for that "Qi-electro-magnet" feeling between my arms, or setting out to write a new song, or any other meaningful action, intent matters. The road to Hell may be paved with good intentions, but so is the path to a great goal. So I ask, "What's my purpose in doing this?" Without purpose, what's the point?
"Forces of nature." Gotta admit, when I was first attempting to memorize these 10 phases, "forces of nature" sounded to me like earthquakes, typhoons, and tsunami, not exactly forces one thinks of using for "healing and empowerment." As the second of the 10 phases, it was not that hard to memorize, even if it was hard to internalize. How can you use forces of nature for healing and empowerment? I'm still not entirely sure, but I have found that "gathering" resources such as technology, encouragement, time, imagination–all this helps me to create a better product, whatever the product is.
And gathering encouragement can be as easy as connecting with a friend or collaborator, someone who "gets" what I'm doing. Just the other day, a long-time friend and "super writer" Ken Carlton ("Food For Marriage") sent me a short note, sharing part of his own creative process and commenting on the second article of this series. I enjoyed learning how and when he "goes creative" and his words inspired me to keep at it myself. Thanks, Ken!
"...for healing and empowerment." Music, books, movies, blogs, podcasts. All these creative products and more can surely be healing. Prior to studying and "cultivating" Qi, I had no idea that one could set out, with intention, to "heal" oneself with energy. And I still have no idea how far it can go. Or how much of it is mumbo jumbo. But I have seen how intention works, and how "gathering" resources–and increasing my resourcefulness–leads to positive feelings as well as results.
A "gathering" is a bringing together. How is this connected with healing and empowerment? Malcolm X said it simply: "When "I" is replaced with 'We,' even illness becomes wellness." Qigong can be practiced in groups or by oneself. I am usually practicing on my own, but as San Bao teaches, I also acknowledge all who are practicing Qigong or any other discipline that brings greater self-awareness and creativity.
I mentioned that I went through a process of memorizing the 10 Phases. I'm not sure why I decided to do so at the time, other than, having read the whole Promise of Qi once before and not remembering any of the 10 phases, I thought it would be a good idea to commit them to memory. Plus, I wanted to try out the "Kwik" memory method. Jim Kwik has a bunch of talks and courses, and I had taken his introductory course. I enjoyed the method of using my apartment (and the building outside) to memorize a list of 10 abstract items; in this case, the 10 phases of Qi cultivation and mastery.
One Kwik Method
According to Kwik, the simple method is to think of 10 places around and in your residence, and then "put" each of the key terms, along with some concrete image and the number of each item. I did so, beginning with the entry way to our building where I "touched" the number 1 on the display panel and "discovered" a treasure chest. Hence, 1 = Discover Qi. After going through all 10, I then set out to memorize the quotes you're seeing at the beginning of these blog posts, writing them down. Jahnke calls these "mind-focus affirmations." Getting the 10 phases only took a few tries, but the phrases a bit longer. In any case, like the pig in a ham and eggs breakfast, I was committed!
Here's a quick (Kwik!) rundown of the other 9 items, in case you're interested. We'll get to the full quotes in later posts. "2, Gather Qi" was quick and easy. After walking through the entrance to our building downstairs, I imagined "gathering up" the artwork along the wall leading toward our elevator. So "2" was "gather." Three is "Circulate" and the key verb in the phrase is "deliver," so I imagined pushing the elevator panel number 3, only to find a Black Cat delivery man walking in circles inside the elevator. 3 = Circulate Qi. Four is purify, so as I got out of the elevator to see our concierge desk, I imagined a giant purification machine there, taking in dirty water and releasing pure drinking water out the other side. Four = Purify Qi.
Five is Direct Qi. I look to the right of the concierge desk, where our small gym was. On the gym door is a 5. Inside, I imagined a giant director's chair marked "Director." Six is Conserve Qi. Walking back past the concierge's desk and toward the access door to our floor is another panel of buttons. I push "6" and I imagine Ward Cleaver (conservative father of a 1960s black and white TV sitcom) standing there. Turning the corner toward my apartment, there is a garbage room, but instead of "garbage," I imagine the door has a giant 7 on it and under the number a sign says, "Storage." Why? Because 7 is Store Qi. As I now get right near our apartment door, I look down at a doormat. There's a giant 8 sprayed on it, but the number and the mat itself keep changing. It is becoming a....what? A robot? No, a "transformer." What's going on? Oh, the mat is "transforming." Eight = Transform Qi. I lived on the 9th floor, so I see our room sign "908," and open the door. But as I walk in, my whole body begins to dissolve. How could that be? Because 9 = Dissolve in Qi. Finally I walk into our living room, and there's a huge transmitter there, giant antennae taking up the whole room. Why? Because 10 = Transmit Qi.
So much for "no imagination," Dad! And by the way, taking things "literally" is what helps these images stick in my memory.
The Kwik-taught method is based on perhaps the fundamental creative activity: finding or creating connections that weren't there before, or that weren't obvious at first glance. Using this process, I memorized the 10 phases of Qigong, the cultivation of Qi. And I had gathered one more tool to use in pursuit of higher creativity, and to help, as Prince said, "get through this thing called Life." Next up: Circulate!