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Qigong and Movement

There is this saying

The mind is the general of the qi

This saying comes from China; I can find no authority for it but it is often repeated. What does it mean? It means that the qi follows the direction of the mind like a good soldier follows the directions of the commanding officer. But this raises a point. If qigong is concerned with directing energy, why move the body at all? Why not simply sit, use the mind to direct energy and meditate like the Buddhists?

It is said that many centuries ago, when Bodidharma came to promote Buddhism to the Chinese emperor he came upon a group of Shaolin monks who did exactly that. They meditated, did no exercise and their physical condition was poor. Upon seeing this Bodidharma was credited with introducing qigong practices to improve their physical condition. So here we have the first justification. Qigong is not simply about qi; it overlaps with calisthenics in part. It helps maintain the strength and flexibility of the body as does yoga in India.

In Taoism the mind and the body are not viewed as distinct. If the body is ill or unhealthy it will affect the mind. Yoga was practised originally according to the advice of Patanjali to prepare the mind for meditation. We cannot meditate comfortably on a compost heap.

But even within the physical, there is an important connection between qigong movement and qi. The movements of qigong are designed to open the meridians and allow the free circulation of energy. If the mind is the general of the qi, then the meridians are the roads down which the qi marches. We can to a degree, use the mind to unblock energy channels, but our meditation has to be very good. To put it this way, we can direct the qi down a blocked road by use of the mind. This is like a path that is beaten by the imprint of many feet. Alternatively we can prepare the path before sending our army down it. This is the method of qigong.

There is another reason; which is the connection between mind and movement. Our mind directs movement, but also follows it. This means that the mind focuses wherever we place our movement and this focus creates a flow of qi in that part. This flow is natural and is a product of conscious movement. If I raise my arm without awareness then it is simply a physical movement, nothing more. If I choose to place my awareness in the movement, then immeiately we have a qi flow. So the manner of movement is important.

The last aspect relates to the hands. Hands are very important in qigong. They are direct expressions of our will and we have the most control over them. They are the most versatile of our physical tools and they contain an important energy centres in the palms. Healers use the hands to heal and direct energy. When we use the hands to stroke up the meridians we induce a flow of energy through those channels. This is similar to electric current that takes place in a wire when a magnet is moved over it.

So for all these reasons, in qigong we move.