I was first introduced to Qi Gong when I was 10 years old, as a martial arts student.
Although it was a very basic beginning, it began a love affair, a Healing Journey, and an exploration of the most powerful practice that I have encountered in my life. That was about 45 years ago.
Thirty-seven years ago, I began studying with lineage-holding Masters of Martial Arts, Qi Gong, Daoism, Chan/Zen, and in 1996 I became a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
There have been two defining experiences that feel worth sharing as an introduction to where I am coming from, as a Qi Gong student and teacher. One experience was a near-fatal rock-climbing accident that should have left me paralyzed, or dead. The other was living as a Hermit as a formal Daoist initiate. One kind of led to the other.
When I was 23 years old, I almost died falling off of a mountain. At the time, I was on the journey of becoming a professional Martial Arts and Qi Gong teacher. I was also preparing to go to China and become a Daoist priest. After the accident, I was certain that I would need to rethink my career and let go of my passion.
Fortunately, with the guidance of amazing teachers and healers, and many months of daily Qi Gong, Daoist Inner Cultivation (Nei Gong), and other Healing practices, I was on the mend and had recovered most of my agility and range of motion in just over a year. Whew!
The world that I had discovered; learning and practicing more advanced Inner Qi Gong (Nei Gong), began calling to me. Within a year I had moved across Canada, made my commitment to becoming a Daoist Priest, and found a place to go through my Initiation process – which involves 49 Days of complete solitude, and at least 4 hours of advanced Qi Gong practice per day.
Living as a hermit for 49 days, exploring my meditation practice, breathwork and Qi Gong as deeply as possible every day, was a life-changing experience. After the seven weeks were over I wanted to stay in the forest for the rest of my life. My practice had transformed in a way that could not have happened in any other way.
At the time I was teaching Qi Gong and Martial Arts and continuing my studies with three of the highest-level Masters in the Western world (1992 – 1997). I had planned to return to my teaching and learning but had made a discovery that I did not want to lose.
I had realized that not having students and teachers watching my every move, stopped me from trying to get it ‘right’.
When I decided to stay in the forest, a quality of performance for others fell away, and I began to move in unexpected, but profoundly more effective ways (for me). Meditation invited me into a completely new dimension of stillness.
I lived that way for as long as possible but eventually had to return to the modern world, my students, and my teachers. I was nervous that people would complain about the changes I had made to my practice. I expected my students to be upset at having to learn things ‘all over again’ and my teachers would try and make me go back to the old way.
The opposite happened.
One of my primary teachers smiled and said, ‘I see that you have bled into the scrolls.’
I had never heard that expression but it made perfect sense. What I had learned was what I could see and ‘read’ from my teachers. I had learned to imitate them all and had spent thousands of hours getting it ‘right’. We all have to go through that process.
Learning from the outside in…
At some point, those of us who are committed to taking our practice as deep as possible, need to practice from the inside out. As a teacher, it has become my passion to help people move in this direction as soon as possible.
Every Qi Gong teacher and student begins by imitating the scrolls – practicing what we can see and understand. Eventually, if you are determined and willing to commit to a few years/decades of personal practice, you will ‘bleed into’, or pour your heart and soul into your practice and then it will become yours.
It has always been this way.
This time ‘In the mountains and caves,’ as the expression goes, changed the nature of what I understood to be possible, at least experientially with practices like Martial Arts, Qi Gong, Nei Gong, and Meditation. I decided to stay a lot longer…
After a few months of living away from all stimulation and human contact, I was very comfortable with a future of living monastically. Perhaps I would become a respected martial arts teacher, or perhaps I would become a priest and live that life. I was 24 years old at the time, and honestly, I had very little life experience because I spent all of my spare time training. I left my hermit life behind with three specific intentions. To find an authentic Daoist teacher and lineage, to teach Martial Arts, and to become a Healer.
A few short years later, I had completed my studies in Traditional Chinese medicine, began developing and teaching my own approach to the Combat side of Martial arts, and received the teachings of an Oral tradition of Lay Daoism.
Be careful what you wish for… 😉
At 28 years old, and I am a bit amused at my ambition as a young man, I became a co-founder of the first full-time, 5-Year Doctoral Program, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in Canada. Besides writing, translating, and teaching some of the primary courses on Acupuncture, Herbology, and TCM Theory, I was also responsible for developing the Medical Qi Gong Therapist program.
That was in 1996.
I have continued to ‘bleed into the scrolls’ and share what makes the most sense in the modern world – ever since!
Are you practicing from the outside in, or from the inside out?