And Our Place in the Universe
Qigong Master Michael Horn
In a world of ever-increasing pressures, demands, conflicts and stresses, even finding the time to seek relief and renewal can in itself be a challenge. When we do seize the opportunity to unwind, we often turn to entertainment in the form of movies, TV, listening to music and watching or participating in sports. The enjoyment we experience is sometimes due to our being distracted from the difficulties of daily life, sometimes from the intrinsic benefits we receive from our chosen activities. In many cases, the effect is quite temporary and diminishes soon after our participation is over and we have begun to return to "normal" life.
There is another approach, one that is regenerative, diametrically opposite to the way the world usually works, and that pays ever-increasing dividends for the time invested. This approach creates an effect not only of relief but of self-healing, an expanding and ongoing sense of peacefulness and well-being that isn't available fro the usual familiar pastimes. The practice of Chi Gong provides us such rewards and more. Ultimately exquisitely simple to learn and perform, Chi Gong exercises produce lasting benefits for the body, mind and spirit, creating a reservoir of energy from which to draw when most needed.
Chi Gong differs from the more familiar Western modalities in several ways. First of all, the Chinese have developed and perfected healing systems like acupuncture, herbology and T'ai Chi Chuan (which is actually a form of Chi Gong) for over three thousand years. Unlike the latest exercise fads which come along, Chi Gong has been proven over an extended period of time to have tremendous benefits for people of all ages, body types and health conditions and doesn't require any equipment or special clothing. There are even hospitals in China for terminally ill patients where the only type of treatment or therapy is Chi Gong practice. As patients begin to improve their health they participate in teaching other patients how to do the same. The rates of remission and prolongation of life are said to be remarkable.
For a long time, the practice of Chi Gong was akin to a secret formula reserved only for the upper classes and, later, for the rest of the Chinese people. As interest in the Eastern healing arts grew in the West, and interest in trade and commerce with the outside world grew in the East, the knowledge of these arts began to spread more widely, to the benefit of us all.
Chi Gong does not refer to one exercise, set or series of exercises alone. There are literally hundreds of styles and exercises which are encompassed in the system. It is the nature of the exercises, how they are performed, that makes them unique. Words like "mindfulness," "balance," "gentle awareness," "focused," "flowing," "grounded," are used to describe the way in which one practices as well as the resulting benefits of proper practice. In comparing the Chi Gong approach to Western aerobics as taught and practiced in classes and health clubs, several important differences emerge: Generally speaking, aerobics are taught as repetitive vigorous movements to raise the heartbeat and tone the muscles. There is little attention paid to the subtleties of joint movement, the subtle interplay of breath and movement or the direction of one's attention deep within the body. Chi Gong practice focuses on just these sorts of things. While aerobics are generally performed rapidly, and perhaps mindlesslessly, Chi Gong is relatively slow and gentle, contributing to the relaxation not only of the body but the mind as well. The senses become enhanced, colors appear brighter and more vivid, sounds are clearer, the senses of smell, touch and even taste are likewise enhanced with practice.
Also, while Chi Gong seeks to strengthen the heart through slow, gentle movements and relaxed breathing, an aerobic heartbeat can be generated by extending the time over which the movements are practiced, or lowering the stance while performing the movements and static standing postures which comprise an important part of certain Chi Gong practices.
While Western exercises like weightlifting pay a lot of attention to developing large, bulging muscles, Chi Gong develops toned, flexible relaxed muscles with ample strength to perform all necessary functions. The difference, besides the size and appearance of the muscles, is that Chi Gong directs most of the energy generated to the internal organs and immune system, not to the surface muscles. It is the condition of the internal organs and immune system that determines our health and longevity far more than the size of our biceps.
Long-time practitioners of Chi Gong have been known to demonstrate tremendous feats of strength as well as so-called extra-sensory abilities as by-products of their practice. It may be remarkable enough for most of us to improve our health, our immune systems and our peace of mind and be able to do so alone or in a group, inside or outdoors, at work or at home, and in very little space. Additionally, there are Chi Gong exercises that can be practiced standing, sitting and lying down so you don't have to go anywhere special to reap the benefits.
Among the many benefits on the physical level, Chi Gong provides a gentle but deep self-massage action that helps to locate and dissolve the tension, knots and blocks in our bodies that most other exercises bypass at best, and reinforce at worst. Since the gentle practice of Chi Gong is the antithesis of the "no pain, no gain" approach, one is encouraged to never over-extend or stress the body but rather to find a comfortable pace and range of motion within which to practice.
When a block or barrier within the body is noticed, one backs off a bit so as to get a sense of what the resistance feels like. By paying attention to such areas, one avoids harm and injury and may begin to soften and dissipate the blockage or congestion, gradually creating greater circulation, flexibility and strength in the area. Such regeneration leads to rejuvenation, and one can begin to see why this approach is so appealing in our modern, highly pressured world.
In addition to the rich rewards reaped by the body, the attention paid to the process produces a mindfulness wherein the mind becomes relaxed, yet more focused and alert, often leading to a renewed interest in life. As one progresses in the practice, the feelings of warmth, tingling and flowingness being experienced give rise to a sense of awe, a new respect for the intricacy and order of how life-energy moves through and renews us.
In this state of mind, we are able to contemplate the bigger picture, to see and experience ourselves as a part of a vast universe filled with tremendous energy and intelligence. Life is felt to be immensely well-ordered, operating by seemingly immutable principles, functioning perfectly, even if not always to our immediate understanding or liking.
The healing of emotional imbalances is an accompanying benefit to the practice and is sometimes pursued as a goal in itself. Psychological and emotional issues are dealt with in a way that is different from that of most Western modalities. Though this is not the place to attempt an in-depth explanation of how this aspect of emotional healing takes place, it can be said that, at one level, the emotions are experienced, and observed, as energetic patterns, or states,&emdash;like passing storms.
Absent from the process is the emphasis on intense personal identification with, or attachment to, the arising emotional content, that is more familiar in traditional therapy.
An analogy might be that in a dream, unlike in the waking world, when we focus on an object it may begin changing its shape, disappear or turn into something else. In waking consciousness, this would inspire a natural curiosity on our part, especially if we are able to observe something which we have labeled as quite fixed, a long-held anger for example, and observe it beginning to flow or change its energetic nature, and the way we feel. Though we clearly have preferences for certain feelings over others, we may begin to appreciate the richness of our internal process, the interplay of light and dark or yin and yang, in ways that not only surprise but definitely expand and enrich us.
We are renewed then, not only in the body and the mind, but also in the spirit, and perhaps by doing nothing more than moving our body slowly and gently (or not at all), breathing naturally, becoming more relaxed and expanded, participating and observing, all at the same time.
With great simplicity we begin to perceive the wonder and majesty of creation, putting the details and dramas of our lives in proper perspective.
About the Author
Michael Horn is featured in the May and October 1997 issues of the international martial arts magazine, "Inside Kung Fu." His new videotape, "Qigong and Gentle Stretching for Seniors," $12.95 + $4.00 shipping and handling, is now available from: Michael Horn 7263 W. Manchester Ave. #5 Westchester, CA 90045. Ph/Fx (310) 348-9810.
Showcasing Michael's whimsical side, his CD, entitled "Spaceship on the White House Lawn," $12.95 + $2.00 shipping and handling, is now also available. It's been called an "intergalactic comedy cult classic, multi-dimensional mini-musical!" The CD is a collection of uplifting, upbeat and off-beat original songs and spoken pieces, many of which are tongue-and-cheek send-ups of New Age sacred cows such as channeling, health foods, UFO's, crystals, prunes, karma, etc.
Michael Horn is the creator of "Standing in Spirit" Chi Gong and teaches in Santa Monica. His international clients include executive from the following corporations BASF, Eurochemie, Rabobank, KLM, Cyco Software, and ING Bank
Praise for Michael's "Standing in Spirit" Chi Gong include the following:
"I found "Standing in Spirit" to be a remarkably easy and painless process for resolving personal issues on the spiritual and emotional level.
- Arielle Ford, publicist for Dr. Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, etc.
"'Standing in Spirit" is a powerful and unique experience that truly unifies mind and body for creative change."
- Bob Kessel, DSW, LCSW, BCD
"The work I've done as a therapist and as a client seems single dimensional and limited compared to the experience I've had with "Standing in Spirit." I believe that it is a leap forward from traditional insight oriented psychotherapy in that it recognizes, supports and utilized the mind, body and spirit in the goal of growth and healing."
- Louise Sevilla-Barr, MSW
Michael Horn's background also includes:
Creator of the still popular fashion fad, "fingernail art."
Co-producer of the videotape, "The Pleiadian Connection"
Associate producer of the videotape "Technical Remote Viewing Home Study Course"
As a songwriter, his credits include songs for:
Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys
"Listen America" TV pageant, two years running
Second City, Chicago's famed improvisational theater
"Brother River" (winner of the Woody Guthrie Award for Songs of Social Signficance) currently getting international airplay on Michael Grande's hit album, "Hey Friend"