Spring Chi: Go Out and Get Some

The path of the Qigong and Tai Chi practitioner is a beautiful way to become more aware of the energies that surround you. It starts with feeling your own chi: at the end of a workout you notice a little tingle in the hands, warmth and a sense of increased circulation (or pouring sweat, if you've amped up the intensity a little). A feeling of being more open, loose, and relaxed. All that good stuff.

I've written before about how Tai Chi and Qigong can change your awareness of the way you interact with other people. All interpersonal interactions (even those taking place at a distance) involve an energetic exchange. We are all connected, and that becomes way more clear when you develop your sensitivities to chi.

People are not always at their best, however. You're more likely to learn about the impact of other people's chi on you through your habitually nasty coworker than through those who are balanced and even-tempered.

Fortunately, there is one realm where you can generally speaking guarantee a positive energy exchange that has untold benefits for you, and that is the natural world.

Here in Southern Ontario, as in much of North America, it has been a nasty winter, and if you still a haven't pulled yourself out of winter hibernation, that's totally understandable. A lot of people around here like to say we "don't get a spring" here. It is true that the weather tends to turn from cool-ish (10-15 degrees Celsius) to warm (20+) rather quickly, creating a spring that looks pretty grey for a long time but then flips suddenly into all the plants growing all at once and all the leaves busting out. Trees and plants here don't kid around: when it is go time, they all burst forth as fast as they can.

However, the energetic conditions underlying the process of rebirth and growth have been building since the winter solstice - the moment when the sun begins the long slow climb toward summer. By March / April, the signs of spring are absolutely everywhere if you know where to look.

The birds are usually the first indicator that something is up. We look for robins, but even the sparrows that winter here will start being a lot more vocal. In late March / early April, the ground plants start greening up, especially in protected wooded areas. Mosses often come first, then garlic mustard (I know it's an invasive, but it's a tasty one), low-lying vines and of course crocuses, tulips, hepatica, and others. Buds start coming on - the red maple across the street from our house has pushed out its intense showy red buds in the last couple of days, and the Manitoba maple in our yard has a squirrel in it right now, snacking on its buds.

Spring is here, now, no need to wait for it.

It's great to take note of the signs of spring that you can see and enjoy intellectually, but if you do any kind of energy work, including Tai Chi and Qigong, the thing to do is get out there and experience what this chi feels like. Too often, we like to stick to our familiar practice room - we go to class, work out, feel better, and then don't do anything with it. The fact is, the Taoist arts are a path to complete awareness of the beautiful world around us. When we only attend to interactions with other people, and our whole experience of the outside world is the office or the grocery store, the insides of buildings and the insides of our own homes, we miss the fact that this world of ours is in many ways still a paradise, despite humanity's best efforts to destroy it.

One of the best ways to engage with the full range of what this practice has to offer is to get out there. Get yourself to a conservation area, park, or, if that seems like too much, into your own yard. Take off your shoes and walk through the mud a little. Pick a dry patch and lie down on the ground. Lay your spine out and feel the earth beneath you. Even the most public busy park will have a quiet unused corner where this is possible. Open yourself to the world around you and soak it in. Take note of how you feel before you head out, and see how spending time outdoors changes that.

Even if you don't do Tai Chi or Qigong, you can still do this, of course. If interacting with nature is your entire practice, it will take you far. If you are a Tai Chi or Qigong practitioner, remember that yours is a shamanic tradition. It's our birthright - everyone's birthright - to enjoy and embrace the natural energies that constantly flow all around us. If you practice Tai Chi or Qigong and don't take advantage of what the world of nature has to offer, it's not exaggerating to say that you're missing the whole point of your practice.

This is something that has been missed, I think, in a lot of Tai Chi classes. It isn't something that gets taught much because it isn't something your teacher can really show you. (I would argue this is true for most of what you can learn through Tai Chi and Qigong - classes are great, but no one's going to do your practice for you. That's a post for another time.) You have to go out and play with it, knowing that your Tai Chi and Qigong practice has already worked on you to heighten your awareness. When you practice in class, you're building a potential within yourself to see and feel differently, to experience more, to taste the sweetness this life has to offer. It's up to you to go out and experience it.

No comments: