Qigong is Like Music
I’m sitting across the table from a young Taiwanese man who’s studied in New Zealand and enjoys weekend night clubbing in Taipei; i slide a small cup of freshly steeped tea in his direction, and his face wrinkles as he comments, “Wow, how did you get into all this old people stuff?”
For this young man, “old people stuff,” meant more than early bird dinner specials and bingo nights; for him, it was the cultural practices of past generations dwarfed by the allure of American-brand excitement and party. I suppose to the untrained eye, the slow movements of qigong and taiji, and long afternoons steeping tea, seem like practices for the weary, but for those drawn to these practices, discovered within are unseen oceanic motion, and layers upon layers of change and appreciation.
Even in the United States, a place absent of the shifting cultural context present in Taiwan, taiji and qigong seem to largely be directed towards elderly audiences, and those recovering from injury, heart attack, or major surgery. Yes, the movements of taiji and qigong are often slow and rhythmic, but they are actually quite complex and full of internal motion.
There is no harm in starting these practices in the latter stages of life, just as one can choose to learn an instrument at any age. And, while it takes time to feel like an instrument is an extension of one’s body and spirit, we have the benefit of being passively familiar with our bodies, simply by living through them. However, when compared to a violin, a cello, even a piano, the human body is a vastly more complex instrument. Just as music takes on a seamless, composed, and moving quality when practiced beyond familiarity, the movements of body and mind become unimpeded, fluidic, and full with consistent qigong (and taiji) practice.
Qi - 氣, is the basic stuff of the universe, a dynamic and seamless dance between yin and yang, and Gong - 功, is skill attained through disciplined practice and training. Any skill learned earlier in life is easier to retain and has the potential to reach mastery in the later years. If qi is the source of vitality and the animating quality within us, and its refinement and accumulation are skills that can be practiced, isn’t there no better time to start than before fatigue, lethargy, and pain are already a part of daily life?