There really is some content this time!! So, after a false start earlier in the week and some self debate, I have decided to let go of my need to be on a strict schedule. Yeah, that's it.
First things first:
I love writing about qigong, energy healing, and what I am learning about the rich ancient wisdom traditions that they evolved from, i.e., Daoism, Buddhism. I like finding the connections between these and other worldviews; also new ways to incorporate the principles into my own practice. These have all made a profound impact on my life and will continue to shape my experiences and health- body mind, and soul. But I am more interested in structuring this blog when I can around issues and topics that are important to the people who read it. What I had imagined in this idea of creating a “3Bao community” is having dialogue among the members, other healers, and those curious about beginning a practice or seeking healing treatments. I enjoy putting articles together around things that fascinate me, but I’m not as much interested in being the only one talking. Granted, even when I have a little writer’s block, I never seem to completely run out of things to talk about, but I am genuinely curious-what healing topics are interesting to you? If there are subjects around energy healing that you’d like to know more about, let me know- you can answer in the comments, or if you prefer (it’s okay if you don’t want to be ‘public’ about it), email me at email@example.com . I am hoping as time moves along, these articles will be less of a soapbox and more of a conversation between us.
Thou Shalt Have No Wrinkles-
Random thoughts about "anti-aging" and the ageless art of Qigong practice.
“There’s no actual happiness to be found in always trying to be someone else at some future time, because the fact is, you’ll never quite get there. Why not instead, show up fully, right here, right now? Mark Van Buren, “Brief Teachings”
It seems to be an eleventh commandment; the 28th amendment to the US Constitution. Violators may have to go before the Supreme Court or perhaps, get struck by a thunderbolt.
Anti-aging sounds like a political stance. Aging? Well, I’m against it. None for me, thanks.
Okay, exactly what am I against? Nature? Wisdom of experience, years? Perspective? Many people become interested in and ask about the longevity (read "anti-aging") potential of Qigong practice. Increasing the length of life would be cool, but if you are miserable, how does adding a lot of years further anyone? It is important to look at aging as a natural process that is inevitable, but also unique to each person. No one really knows how to do it right, but there is a lot of money made on techniques and creams and ointments that can offer the illusion of proper defiance. You know, so you don't have to go to aging jail, or stand before the Supreme Court.
I'm not passing judgement here- there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to prolong a youthful appearance or vitality. But I would challenge first the terminology around it because the way we talk about something is the way we think about it and incorporate it into experience. For instance, we tend to use terms like “youthful appearance” when we mean healthy glow, or sparkle, which is available to everyone, young or old- what we call in Qigong therapy the “Shen (spirit/soul) shining brightly in the eyes”. Youth on the other hand is a phase that everyone who lives long enough passes through- it is a stage of immaturity. You know, most people I know don't mind aging; that isn't the problem. We know it has to happen. We just don't like getting caught in the act of it- you know, sagging, wrinkling and curmudgeon-ing. Becoming our parents. All those things we imagine might happen to us. We stand in defiance against the stories we tell ourselves about it. And this creates stress and fear, the energies of which, guess what? Line the pockets of certain companies and age us faster, even when we buy the products.
One of the great things that my personal Qigong practice has done for me is that it helps me begin to unravel my tendency to want to apologize for getting so many things wrong. It has also helped me to show up for myself more often and for longer, unafraid of the time that takes. A meaningful practice anyone can do is to begin questioning this fear- answering honestly about self-image and the real impact of stress in your life. Is your current level of stress worth what your investing in it? Can you change it without spoiling your goals? What good is a so-called perfect body without a mind that appreciates and supports who that body belongs to? What kinds of stories do you tell yourself about what is happening in the passage of time? Here, again, we come to this real challenge that people confront when they resist aging. It is about how to be more comfortable in your own skin- that feeling of having composure and grace, no matter what is going on. Do you believe that being comfortable in your skin is a catalyst for looking and feeling better, which translates as, and for many, looks like “younger”? And there is some evidence that a mental state of honest happiness can slow aging.
To me, this anti-aging stance contains two parts: it’s a fear, not necessarily of death as some would claim. The fear is of being seen aging and being alive to experience other people’s reactions to it' or at least how you imagine their reactions will be. Anti-aging is also the marketing concept for a billions-of-dollars industry- it's meant to make your nervous for a reason. It's not a political movement nor is it a moral imperative. I don't think it has a place as a trend in spiritual development. Yet, we still, including myself, sometimes lean into it as if it is, carried along in our highly visual world. Beauty is skin dip. So is aging. Make the project be how to be comfortable in your own skin, complementary to your world, not comparing to others. That anxiety starts well before the "first visible signs" of aging.
Is there a Qigong for that?
Briefly, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the emotion of fear, especially hypervigilance and prolonged alienation, or anger (which is generally based upon a fear of some kind), damages the kidney’s energetics- the Qi of the kidneys is tied to the water element, so think about the regenerative and supportive forces in the body; the reproductive system and our foundation- the bones; the quality of fluids in the body- so the state of dehydration or inflammation; and to the brain- the flow of neurochemicals and impulses; DNA and RNA. So when those processes are out of balance, the body does not regenerate well; the mind is not grounded or rejuvenated. In a phrase we don’t rest and recover from stressors. Insomnia can indicate an imbalance of kidney energies. Further, chronic lack of sleep ages us more quickly. It also interrupts other processes, like digestion, so we can become malnourished, unable to metabolize or synthesize the energy. As I've talked about in previous posts, Qigong movements are a type of exercise. The technique differs from conventional exercise in that it doesn’t just target the body- it is a holistic practice that also considers the movements of the mind- the heart; logic, belief, emotional patterns (incl. fear, anger, sadness, worry, anxiety) that impact the body's physiological states.
Spoiler alert: I need to let you know- your cells are listening to you talking smack on yourself.
I watched a YouTube not long ago featuring a Nobel prize winning scientist, Elizabeth Blackburn, who was talking about the role of telomeres in aging and premature aging. Telomeres, simply put, are biomarkers of the aging process. They make up part of each cell in our bodies and chemically produce, through telomerase, the ongoing life of a cell. My understanding is that they replicate the instructions for healthy cell design. The normal aging process breaks them down; sort of like the original copy of a document that fades the more times it is copied. What she has observed in her work is that chronic, overwhelming stress shortens telomeres, even in young people whose telomeres are normally not shortening at a fast rate. Hot stress, hot mess. This is what brings about premature aging for young folks and accelerates for those of us a little further down the line. One of her colleagues, an Aging and Stress Researcher, Elissa Epel adds, “Telomeres care about our happiness.” and “Our cells are listening to us.” This is what Qigong practitioners have been saying for millennia! She means scientists have now observed that telomeres behave normally and will slow the aging process when our mental states are sincerely relaxed and satisfied.
This makes it more important to consider prioritizing time to do things that are personally meaningful- not to parents, kids, culture, social circle, spouse, or friend- to you, dear individual. And not what "should" or "ought" to be done. Go ahead and ask yourself-what do you want to do? What makes you happy? Without judging your answers, listening carefully with respect to what you, dear individual, have to say. Then, begin the process of finding and building upon your strengths, as it is called in positive psychology. Find out what is valuable to you. This is a little different flavor from pop culture's "manifesting" movement. It's taking an honest look at what you are good at and care about and building from that platform, not pretending that negativity doesn’t exist or have an impact or that you are all and only a positive, as opposed to a negative person.
Stress and the real emotions that come with it is not any more avoidable than aging, but addiction to it-making it fundamental to your way of life, or feeling no sense of control- continuous adrenaline-is pathological and it can be deadly. Many stressors are good types, but they all have an effect on your mind and body over time. Your stress response is meant to help you through a crisis, then dissipate, not become a normal condition. We will age a whole lot faster if each of us doesn't learn to balance the frenetic lifestyle with relaxation. More to the point-it is vital to vitality to do things that make us genuinely happy or that we can derive contentment from.
Consider Qigong because coordinating what we call "the Three Treasures of Humans", posture (body), heart-mind (qi), and vitality (spirit), will help you learn to center yourself so you can spend your energy more wisely. This can help you evaluate what is healthy for you to eat and what helps you flourish as a human. Is it worth your time to feel better about who you are? Can you see in your own life that the times your feel best and look best are generally the times that you feel in sync with your environment? It shows in your complexion, in the way your body feels. You can begin the process of self-acceptance, not as a narcissistic project, but as a basic understanding of your own destiny. Consider Qigong, of any style. To start the practice, you are not required to be wholesome already- if you aren’t a healthy eater, or you drink, or smoke or use other substances, if you are not particularly athletic, if you think you are too young or too old- it doesn’t matter. You can do it. As a healing exercise technique, it will meet you where you are and help you build a healthiness all your own.
Of course, this doesn’t normally happen overnight. Practicing Qigong doesn’t change the fact that you’re human and can still fall victim to disease, bad attitudes, or behavior you’re not proud of. It does help you learn to move the obsessive, anxious or depressed energy along, to process it and center yourself and transform it so that it doesn’t wreck you. You bounce back, you develop resilience. This ability to recover well is also handy in the aging process. And remember, a high-quality life may not be a long life (although, it’s what we all would like to have)- maybe the quality consists in attaining a high degree of authenticity and contentedness. Any form of Qigong can be part of challenging both the unhelpful programming that influences us and building health that will serve us well while we age. Whether you are young or old as a longevity practice it increases quality of life and increases the odds of quantity of years. There are thousands of styles of Qigong- all are ageless; timeless- choosing the best one, I think it depends mostly on what resonates with you and motivates you to do the practice often enough to enjoy the benefits.
Good luck on your journey!