I‘ve known about the magical work of Mingtong Gu for years and despite my interest in learning Qigong from him, it always seemed to take a back seat.
You see, I first met Qigong master Mingtong Gu at the SAND Conference, now six or seven years ago. Separate from the insights you take away from this event‘s sessions and keynotes, it‘s inevitable that you‘ll meet some of the most amazing and inspirational people before you leave. I always do.
So truthfully, I dabbled in Qigong for the first time at SAND and kept in touch with Mingtong Gu until I ran into this warm and encouraging soul again recently at Wisdom 2.0, another great event on mindfulness where we were a media partner for the second year in a row. Here, I learned about an upcoming Qigong and Mindfulness class that Mingtong Gu and Debra Chamberlin-Taylor were running together at Spirit Rock and we were invited to check it out.
This is one thing I’ve learned over the years — when Spirit knocks, be sure to listen. When you seemingly run into the same people again and again and they have a message, even if its a subtle one, listen. Your Higher Self may just be telling you “this will lead you closer to your soul’s purpose.”
Qigong & Mindful Meditation at Spirit Rock
And so, Anthony and I ventured north to Spirit Rock for our third time (it’s always a mystical treat) and spent the day learning from Mingtong and Debra on the value of undoing nearly everything we‘ve learned in life, particularly breathing and how embodiment (true embodiment) will not only re-awaken every part of you, but could just save your life.
Qigong at its core is very gentle and fluid, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Join us on our experience with Qigong in the oh so natural and beautiful Spirit Rock grounds of Woodacre California.
For those of you who meditate regularly know, the health in our body and clarity in our meditation increases as energy flows more freely through the spine. Mingtong and Debra taught us five simple qigong movements that awaken energetic wholeness in the spine as well as the the entire body. Awakening the spine through qigong is a valuable support and complement to mindfulness meditation.
Embodied Presence & Mindful Meditation
Used in concert, the practice of mindful meditation and Qigong bring a bright wakefulness and concentrated, embodied presence that help us discover who we are beyond our stories. Our spines, and bodies, accumulate energetic imprints and physical tensions that can cause pain and block the free flow of life energy. Some of us are more aware of this connection than others.
These movements release spinal stagnation and open a profound circulation of universal energy which inevitably reconnects us with the innate love, joy and wisdom of our true nature. Opening circulation of qi (or chi) or life energy promotes health and well-being in your body and well, shifts your consciousness as well.
Chi can heal anything says Mingtong. He’s a man who doesn’t believe in limited thinking, especially ones from traditional medical thinking and of course, our stories which hold us back from regaining control of our own bodies.
I was sure to sit in the very front since I not only wanted to hear everything clearly but see the distinct movements from a true master — they may be oh so small, but often those fine details are important when learning a move the correct way the first time around.
After a period of meditation, Mingtong said gently to the group, “Imagine energy expanding in front of you. Beyond the ocean, beyond the mountains, behind the horizon.” He reminds us to ground ourselves deep into the Earth below us but also reaching upward to the heavens above. In other words, connect to both the Earth the spiritual plane.
In our own intention, we can imagine all of our trillions of cells awakening to the power of pure white light…..to the power of our internal wisdom.
Throughout this process, he continued to tell us to relax, continuously relax, winding our body and our minds down, not unlike Diana Palm tries to do in just a few short minutes with her Theta Brain technique. As we continued to shut our minds down, he asked us to imagine a lot, in a way that opens up new possibilities for our brains and our hearts.
Mingtong’s soft and soothing voice continued on as his eyes were closed in front of us. As I went into a dreamy state, I heard his voice repeating some things over and over again, adding new phrases here and there.
His voice almost cooed:
“Imagine opening bigger and bigger, connecting to a bigger capacity of energy. Feel the energy. Open to the infinity above you. Connect to the energy inside you, gently letting go. Relax into that subtle energy in front of and around you. Awaken the energy inside you. Awaken the power in you. Awaken to the universe above and around you, slowly allowing you to feel, accept more and more.”
I thought – he’s essentially trying to get us to think beyond the possibilities of what we already know and can feel, tapping into the limitless energy inside us and around us from the universe. It is always there for us, but we’re just asleep to the power, I found myself thinking as I could feel the energy expanding.
“Feel the deeper dimension of your chest, stomach, hips, pelvic, knee joints, and feet,” he continued. “Connect to the energy inside you. Connect to the energy above you.”
“Connect to the Energy Inside You. Connect to the Energy Around You. Open to the Infinity Above You.”
We then proceeded to hold our arms out in front of us in a half circle, feeling the energy between our hands. We then moved half way to the left, back to the center and then around to the right. “Allow, allow, and see what you feel. Sense what you sense. Be aware of your sensations and feel what you feel.”
We had already started practicing embodiment within the first thirty minutes of the day, which leads to embodied awakening and expanding the power we all have inside ourselves. If my mind wandered, I was just aware that it was wandering and tried not to judge myself for my busy and over stimulated mind. Mingtong must have been reading my mind because as soon as I felt a frustration emerging, his voice brought me back.
“No judgment of what you’re feeling and noticing,” he went on. Settling deeper into your body settled us deeper into presence of course which means letting go of self–judgment.
Awaken Your Spine & Return to Your Body
The spine is central to healing and to awakening and so often, we ignore it and yet, it is center to how we breathe, feel, sit, walk and sleep. Qigong helps to bring more vibrancy to our channels so we can open more. Qigong also expands consciousness and awareness.
Even though we may have forgotten that everything us and around us are all connected, it is something that we practiced as small children even if we weren’t aware of this knowledge. Qigong knows that everything in our body is absolutely connected. As Kabir so rightfully said “Everything is Found Inside Us.”
In the west, we have so much to learn from our Eastern friends. There’s no need to look elsewhere — all we need is inside our own body. Says Mingtong, “we need to learn how to come home to our own bodies and ultimately our own souls.”
Debra piped at this point bringing us back to a mindful meditative state.
“So often when we feel sensations, we push them away rather than connect to those sensations and just be aware of them. When we push sensations or feelings away, we are disconnecting from our bodies. When our mind disconnects, our bodies disconnect. ”
All healing and awakening happens when we learn how to literally RE-ENTER and BE within our own body. It’s important to experience our own quiet “nature of reality” which is inside all of us. When we do sense a feeling or sensation coming up, just take it as it is and don’t fight it. Fighting that little moment is really fighting with life, since one moment leads to many moments, many hours, many days and so on.
“Be Here Now” — Ram Daas
The wisdom from Qigong and Buddhism is that who we are is way more than we think we are. We are FAR more than our stories, far more than our symptoms or diagnosis if we’re sick, far more than our bodies.
Truth be told, our bodies are so much more than flesh and bone. Remember that our body is energy which is chi and chi can be moved. How powerful of a realization is this and yet so simple.
“Our body can be portal to the deepest awakening.”
Mingtong says that Qigong is also known as the Ocean of Formless Force. For us to tap into its real power, we need to open to this force within us and of course around us. This allows us to open to the infinite possibilities available to us not just to awaken our bodies, but to heal them, whether we have a physical issue or an emotional one. Most of us have a combination of both.
Think about it this way — while we may all have the energy we need to heal ourselves, if we’re disconnected from our bodies as so many of us are, we’re disconnected to that power.
Mingtong spoke about our Ancient Technology: our bodies. Like me, he’s not a fan of what’s happening at such an alarming speed around AI, computers and cell phones being more a priority in most people’s lives than our own selves.
Once we realize that energy is the essence of life, the simple truths and powerful insights can then begin to emerge. This will lead to more creativity, more focus, more awareness, more awakening, more being present. The list goes on.
Instead of living our story over and over again, which keeps us bound to a perception rather than a reality, we can re-enter our bodies and feel once again.
Our group then proceeded to alternate meditation with new Qigong movements throughout the course of the day. The more we did, the more fluid, I felt.
I especially noticed the difference in the area where most women my age are particularly tight — the hips. If you’re tight in an area, there’s not enough energy flowing through and that’s never a good thing.
When you’re restricted in your spine, the very infrastructure which carries you through your days, problems will emerge even if you don’t have any noticeable back pain.
Remember, the spine is connected to everything in our body in some way. Awakening your spinal energy or frankly, any energy in your body is awakening life.
“This is why they call Spinal Energy the Governor Channel,” Mingtong asserts. “It truly is the governor of your energy system. Not only is bone marrow important for the regeneration of all your cells, but also your entire central nervous system.”
In other words — any stagnation of flow around your spine needs to be opened so energy can move both upward and downward. When you have stagnation or blockage of your spine, then your spin can’t talk to your brain and our brain can’t connect to the rest of your system.
“Even as we age, the blueprint of our system is still there, thinking, being,” says Mingtong. They both agreed that sound healing (God knows I love my gong and singing bowls) and visualization are excellent complimentary healing modalities that can be added to your mindful meditation and Qigong practice. I’ll be covering both in more detail in a future article.
At an introductory level, you learn the five basic movements to open each of your core channels, the most profound for me being the neck rotations, movements to open up the spine and the hip.
As women, we may not realize that this area is where our reproduction system lies and our hormonal balance system. And, as my technology friends are well aware, our shoulders and necks carry the most stress and tension, particularly when we’re in front of a computer monitor for over eight hours a day.
Essentially what Mingtong and Debra are hoping to do through their teaching is to get people to fundamentally realize that life is in our own hands.
Instead of looking for proof, go inward, tap into the power of our own bodies and focus on self discovery, self empowerment and self realization. Reminds Mingtong, “no matter if you are 20 or 70 years of age, you can discover the same truths.”
He asserts that a lot of the problems and discomforts we have in the modern world come from our addiction to comfort itself. Mingtong suggests that the Quick Fix and Quick Comfort way of life is often opposite to taking personal responsibility. Hear hear.
Sadly, even if this is the case, these dysfunctional and unhealthy patterns of behavior are so reinforced by western society. With that way of life, we are constantly reinforced to disconnect from our minds and bodies.
Later in life, when we actually learn that we can come back INTO our body, it can be a scary process for some. Simply put, we’re not used to it. Being back in our body is when we are truly home.
Less stories. Less attachments. Less Fragmentations.
More Energy. More Embodiment. More Purpose.
When we follow our hearts, which ultimately we all want to do, we are following our energy (our own energy) and can tap into more of the energy inside and out of us by living in this way. A heartful and purposeful life. When we are more connected to our bodies, we will ultimately be more connected to our souls and man oh man, isn’t that a remarkable and joyous way to live?
Isn’t it time to tap into our own ancient technology — our bodies themselves? Time to let go of the familiar and tap into the invisible. Undo and unlearn. At the end of the day, it’s never about our external strength, but rather our internal strength, which each and every one of us has inside us after all.
About Mingtong Gu
Mingtong Gu is a Master Qigong instructor, evangelist and author. He founded and runs the Chi Center just outside Santa Fe, New Mexico where he does a number of retreats and events throughout the year. He also holds online courses and you can get his books and DVDs.
Mingtong is the author of several publications, including Wisdom Healing Qigong, Sound Healing Technologies, and Awaken Vitality, and is a respected speaker on how to heal ourselves and our planet. Check out his website for more on his world, how to see him in person and for further reading on Qigong. Also be sure to read my feature on Mingtong Gu in our Spiritual Voices section.
About Debra Chamberlin-Taylor
Debra Chamberlin-Taylor is a teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. She has been meditating since 1973 and has led retreats that combine spiritual and psychological growth since 1978.
In addition to practicing Vipassana, she has been influenced by Dzogchen, Diamond Heart, and devotional practices. She is also a certified teacher of Wisdom Healing Qigong, finding Qigong and mindfulness used together to be the most healing and transformative practice in her long spiritual journey. A psychotherapist, she also leads workshops on embodiment of awareness and love in relationships and in our diverse world. Read more about her and how you can take some of her courses at Spirit Rock here.
Also be sure to read my article on a couple of workshops we did on Feldenkrais by Frank Wildman and Loving-Kindness in Relationships led by David Richo that we did at Spirit Rock a couple of years ago.