I spent five days last week on a qi gong retreat with Masters Liu Dong and Liu He. As preparation for learning a new form, we practiced a walking meditation and a standing posture in an attempt to get grounded. The walk was very simple, but stylized walk, where every step is put down carefully, deliberately, and yet with a solid connection to the earth. As I attempted the walking meditation, I could feel my mind wandering. Actually, “wandering” is putting it mildly. The first day, my mind was racing, top-speed, considering the loose ends of my impending move and potential week or two of homelessness. “Just walk!” I told myself, in an attempt to call my mind back. I heard my mind’s insistence that this transitional time means that I’m fully entitled to worry, to spend this time going through the motions of walking, instead of feeling my feet connecting with the earth.
“Feel your feet connect with the earth” another inner voice encouraged. I tried again. And again. It’s astounding how many thoughts can arise in the time it takes to pick one foot off the ground, touch it to the standing leg, and connect it to the ground again. “Walk on the Earth. Just walk – -nothing else.” It took two days of practicing qi gong upwards of six hours a day, but finally, I felt the thoughts downshift from fifth gear to maybe second. That’s the magic of qigong: moving the body with breath and intention changes the mind. I could actually pay attention to walking, and moving the qi, more than anything else. I got out of my head and into my body, out of the thousand possible futures and into the present. (At least for a little while!)