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"Purifying Qi, I restore inner harmony by cleansing and dispelling spent, toxic, and unneeded Qi and opening up to fresh, natural life force and power." –Roger Jahnke, 4th Phase Mind-focus Affirmation, The Healing Promise of Qi.

The image I use in order to remember this 4th phase of "Qi cultivation and mastery" is a water purifier, with gunky muddy sludge going into one side and the purest fresh water coming out the other. I imagine the purifier on top of the concierge desk on the 9th floor of Nibancho Terrace, our old apartment building. I am holding a very clear picture of a purely imaginary scene–an image once placed that will never leave. I can't "unsee" that fairly foolish contraption, blocking my view of Yoshi.

For me, the connection of this 4th phase, "Purify Qi," connects closely to the editing process. Writing–in all the forms I practice, including songwriting, blogging, books, speeches, learning plans–consists of three phases: pre-writing, writing, and re-writing. Editing is part of the "re-writing" phase. Final editing is the last step before publication, and there's also a lot of "re-writing" that we can sometimes work out in front of audiences, as when a stand-up comic tries out his material or, as a band, we play live several times before recording a song. Working out the kinks, as it were.

As an extrovert, I often don't know what I think about an issue until I'm expressing my thoughts. I often share my finding that introverts and extroverts follow the same communication steps, but in a different order. Introverts 1) think, 2) express, then 3) think again (sometimes lamenting what they just expressed); whereas extroverts like me tend to 1) express, then 2) sometimes think. But the beauty of writing a song, blog, or book (and even an e-mail or SMS) is that we can take time to re-read and edit–that is, to some extent anyway, to "purify" what had been written in order to produce a clearer, more succinct final product.

In this way of perceiving, the 4th phase comes toward or at the end of a process, but people often perform other purification rites before engaging in something, like the ritual washing of hands done upon entering a Japanese shrine. As Jahnke teaches, all the phase exercises and forms of Qi interpenetrate, as they must, given the nature of Qi. Qi is everywhere, accessible at all times. Phase 4, for me, helps me recognize the purification of the flow. One of Tony Robbins' famous quotes I learned is, "Energy flows where attention goes." And if my attention goes to the "purifying" process of Qi, that's what I sense.

We all have different preferences or tastes, and they can change moment-by-moment. What's "pure" for someone at some time could, for another person or even for you at a different time, be "pure B.S." That's why I remain open to Qi and even the mumbo jumbo surrounding it, and at the same time I question it all the time. By maintaining this stance, between the true believers and the skeptics, I manage what otherwise would probably be permanent cognitive dissonance.

As I wrote in the song "Fine Crooked Line," (You can hear it on Spotify here.): .

"Disregard the danger in Pascale's wager and you're wrapped around a riddle again." What I mean with that line (pre-written, written, re-written x 10, and finally recorded!) is that no matter what we choose to believe or not to believe, mystery remains. At least for me. I am still completely baffled by Qi and creativity. In fact, these two concepts fit into a pattern that repeat itself with just about everything worthwhile I have ever learned, or better said, that I am learning.

You're probably familiar with the four steps of competence: 1) unconscious incompetence, 2) conscious incompetence, 3) conscious competence, and 4) unconscious competence. I want to emphasize that it can be a very long step from 2 to 3. Conscious incompetence is hard on the heart and ego. Some give up right after they realize how insanely difficult mastery will be, especially when it "looked so easy on TV." And to achieve conscious competence can be hard on the brain and body. It can take a long time. And at every step I find that there is still way more to know than I had thought from the beginning.

It's as if someone were to ask, "What level are you as a guitar player are you, on a scale of 1 to 5?" First of all, the question almost makes no sense, but let's go along with it. Since someone did ask me that question years ago, I well remember the exchange and follow-ups later. I had been playing guitar since age 15, and I was a year or two shy of 40 at the time a friend asked, "How good of a player are you?"

"I don't know," I replied. "I guess on a scale of 1 to 5, I am probably a 2, or maybe a 3." Then I started playing and fronting for Moonshots, and learning from an accomplished guitarist. After one or two sessions with him, I realized I was definitely a 2, not a 3. And after a year, I felt I had finally risen up to level 3, at least in my opinion. But at the same time I noticed that the scale went not from 1 to 5 but 1 to 10. I was a 3 on that scale. And after another 5 years, I reached level 5, only to see that the scale range increase from 1 to 100.

So yes, we can improve, and we can "purify" Qi along with all of our endeavors. There's always more to explore. Next time, we'll be exploring Phase 5, Direct Qi. It'll taste better with pure, natural life force and power coursing through us that we gain from Phase 4, "Purify Qi."

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