Stage Three Of Qi Cultivation: Circulating Our Qi

Residents Practice Qigong At A Park In Beijing
Guang Niu / Staff

Once you’ve discovered qi -- i.e. become consciously aware of sensations of flowing energy in your body -- and learned a bit about ways that your body naturally gathers qi, the next step of the qi-cultivation journey is to begin to explore formal qigong practices that allow you to gently circulate qi.

The Foundation Of Resting & Active Qigong Forms

Formal qigong practice can be divided into two general categories: (1) Jing Gong, or quiescent qigong; and (2) Dong Gong, or dynamic qigong.

Jing Gong forms are also referred to as “internal” practice, and tend to emphasize the “allowing” aspect of practice. Dong Gong forms are known as more “external” forms, which emphasize the “doing” aspect of practice.

That said, what’s important to keep in mind is that the foundation of both kinds of qigong practice is our capacity to relax deeply, to let go of thoughts of the past, and plans for the future, and simply abide in a space of “nothing to remember, nothing to accomplish.” It’s this kind of deeply surrendered, receptive and open state of bodymind that is the ground for a potent, healthy and nourishing qigong practice. So how do we go about cultivating this sort of attitude?

Establishing Presence - Restful Alertness

In The Healing Promise Of Qi, Roger Jahnke OMD recommends accessing a state of what he calls “cheerful indifference.” With this attitude of cheerful indifference, we allow our intensity/enthusiasm for practice to be directed not toward some abstract future goal, but rather deeper and deeper into an awareness of the present moment: the sensations within our body, the thoughts arising and dissolving in our mind, and the sights and sounds of our surrounding environment.

In other words, we employ the energy of our practice to becoming more fully present, awake to our current here-and-now circumstances. This kind of alert, relaxed attention, or presence, is fertile ground for the particular techniques of a qigong practice.

Where Does Qi Circulate?

Once we’ve cultivated this relaxed, awake attitude of cheerful indifference, and have begun a formal qigong practice, where exactly does the qi circulate?

The specific answer to this question will depend, of course, upon the specific practice that you’re working with. Different practices support different kinds of qi circulation. What we can say, however, is that -- generally speaking -- qi will circulate within the twelve main meridians, the eight extraordinary meridians, or the three dantians. Along with these paths of circulation, qi can also “soak” into the organs and tissues, and skin and bones.

In each of the three practices introduced below, for instance, qi is circulated primarily within one of the three dantians: Snow Mountain in the lower dantian (lower abdomen, below the navel); Moon On Lake in the middle dantian (heart-center); and Inner Smile in the upper dantian (center of brain / “third eye” area). All three of these are wonderful beginning-level qigong practices, which I encourage you to explore.

Snow Mountain, Inner Smile, Moon On Lake: Practices To Circulate Qi

The Inner Smile. In this joyful practice, we gather qi in the upper dantian, or “crystal palace” – the space directly back from the center-point between our eyebrows – and from there circulate it down as nourishment for our internal organs (and anything else we’d like to nourish).

Moon On Lake. This peaceful practice begins with gathering qi in the middle dantian – the space behind our breast-bone and in front of the spine, which is the energetic “heart center” – by employing a simple visualization. We then circulate the qi outward, in waves of blissful light.

. This energizing practice is used to gather qi in the lower dantian – the space in the lower abdomen, about an inch and a half below the navel, halfway back to the spine – and from there circulate it up and down along the central channel of the subtle body.

Enjoy exploring these delightful and deeply healing ways of circulating qi!