I took my first Qigong class last week in Desert Hot Springs, California. The teacher was a man in his 70s named Michael. We practiced in the early morning, outside on the dewy grass next to a turtle-filled pond with palm trees above and ducks wandering back and forth behind us. Nancy, my partner, had gone to the class the day before and thought I’d like it. As we started the class, I felt my “quick-to-judge” voice come out. “Who is this guy?”; "Is he the real deal?” and other stupid thoughts that come when the mind goes to the too-quick-to judge responses. He had some quirks-- like spitting in the middle of a posture instruction or belching on an exhale, but he was a great instructor, a wise old man indeed. After the hour-long class, I felt both challenged and relaxed. My mind was in the perfect resting place of quiet thoughtfulness.
I went back the next morning for another Qigong lesson. We did an entirely different series and I was again surprised by how challenged I felt in this new practice. My acupuncturist, over the years has introduced me to various Qigong postures, but I’d never done a whole class and I was humbled by how much my body needed to try, how much I needed to focus my mind in order to do what Michael instructed.
On our second day of class, Michael led us through a series of moves that was much more rigorous than the day before. As we bounced up and down off of our heels and back to the earth and shook our arms from our shoulders to our wrists, he’s say, “Silver dragon shakes the universe.” And then, just when I thought I couldn’t shake anymore, he’d guide us into our foundational stillness posture. Once there, quiet and calm, he’d say, “Golden dragon calms the universe.” At the end of class, we did a beautiful closing series that simultaneously wrapped everything up and set it all free.
It reminded me of yoga in this way. In yoga we move from stillness to action and back again until we rest in final Savasana. My Qigong experience, because it was new for my body and my mind, gave me the opportunity to experience these opposing energies in a fresh way. The experience left me with boundless gratitude—for the beauty of the surroundings I was in; for Nancy for encouraging me to try Qigong; for Michael who built his knowledge and practice for forty years and shared it with all of us; and for my own daily yoga practice.
A daily practice of yoga is something I take for granted. I could see this clearly after taking those two Qigong classes—the way my body felt, how it had to work and the way my mind felt during and after the practice. It is a gift, a blessing some would say, to experience this kind of body-mind connection. “Silver dragon shakes the universe. Golden dragon calms the universe.” It happens in Qigong, and it happens in yoga. Thank you Michael for those beautiful classes and reminding me of my daily blessings.