A very kind college friend, who is of Chinese American descent and grew up in New York, had recently traveled to Jakarta for one of Budiman’s (rare) courses offered in English. She was so positively affected by the power of what she learned as it relates to her/our health, that in following our blog, she offered to sponsor me to fly out and learn the practice myself from the same instructor, and asked me to write about my experience and learnings. She was sure, given my challenging health background, that I would personally benefit greatly from it, learn, and be able to share with our community and hopefully beyond. A very generous act on her part, looking to help me as I heal, and hoping to spread these Qigong learnings with countless others out there as well.
While there is certainly an obligation on my end to share given that background, let me say that I found this past week so enlightening and life-changing, that even if it were not for this sponsor, I would be rushing to type this out on this flight home, to share all of this information as quickly as possible, so that others can use it to improve both their physical and mental health. Based on my experience, I am such a believer now, that I vow to continue to talk about this practice any chance I can, as we run #SameHere mental health programs with K-12 schools, colleges, offices, and military members around the world.
When we in the West hear “energy” and “believer,” pertaining to any type of health practice, immediately alarm bells sound. Add to that, the term “meditation,” and it’s a recipe for “tune out” for many. I feel as though the stigmas related to many of the practices that heal us are often equal to, or even greater than, the stigmas related to sharing some of the health conditions many are facing. All of that said, I’m a dude who grew up in New York, has played sports and worked in the pro sports industry my whole life, is left brain dominant in that I am always searching for logical answers to everything, asks a ton of skeptical questions whenever I am presented with new information, and typically must have solid proof in order to become a believer. I’ve been fortunate to travel, but almost exclusively to countries in Europe, only once spending time in Asia, in Thailand, for a little over a week. That’s a long way of saying: I’m not your typical yogi or meditator. Instead, I’m someone who believes that East meeting West in terms of medical practices is the best way for us to obtain, maintain, and even improve our health. Practices that have been around for thousands of years, when combined with the knowledge we’ve gained from modern technology and research, seems the most logical way to go.
Enter Budiman…a rare and special breed. For those who didn’t read my initial post when I mentioned I’d be taking this course a week ago, here is some important background on our instructor: He was born in Indonesia, went to London to study physiology at the University of London, and completed post graduate work while living out there. Because he learned Western medicine, he himself wasn’t a believer in any form of meditation. Once back in Indonesia after schooling, his close friend gave him a book to learn about Qigong. Budiman, a very disciplined individual, tried practicing it by following the book on his own for nine consecutive months and felt no effects. This furthered his skepticism.
It wasn’t until he took a proper course from a licensed instructor, that he experienced what he now calls “success” as he “broke through” after only nine days of Qigong practice (more on what those terms mean, below)! He became so fascinated by his results and the improvement in his own health and that of others (beyond what he had learned about in London alone), that he moved to China to become a certified instructor, came back to Indonesia, and has been teaching ever since – close to 300 classes, over 14,000 students to date – but rarely courses taught in English, so I feel very lucky! 🙂
Even though Indonesia is in Southeast Asia, Qigong is not popular there. It’s actually a Chinese practice (now I know why the customs agent looked at me like I had three heads when he asked me why I was coming to Indonesia, and I answered: “to learn Qigong”). Budiman has brought this practice to Indonesia – the only one to bring this particular Chinese “5-Step Process” developed by his teacher in the 1960’s/1970’s, to his country. His teacher was very sick as a child, but after developing and practicing this Qigong method, he went on to live to the age of 102.
Though I was the only one not from Asia in this past week’s 40+ person class, people from all over the world have traveled to learn from Budiman over the years, including many dignitaries and celebrities (I know that’s not enough to convince anyone yet, but it’s great validation).
According to Budiman, there are two types of illnesses we acquire throughout our lives: 1) caused by bacteria/viruses that CAN’T be improved upon/cured by Qigong, and necessitate medications, and 2) most of our common ailments (over 80 of them), caused by physical changes in the body on a cellular level like diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure, that can begin to be reversed, and often cured by Qigong.
What exactly is “Qi,” why should you believe in it, and how is it made? Qi is the Chinese word for “life energy.” No disrespect to believers in other forms of energy practices (they may work too), but according to Budiman, Qi itself is NOT an energy that can be transferred from one individual to another, nor is it energy that we can obtain from a higher power or spirit. Instead, Qi can be explained through science and our body processes.
We get Qi from breathing air and eating/drinking foods from the earth. From the air we take in oxygen and get rid of what we don’t need on our exhale. From food we absorb the “essence” of the food (nutrients), and our bodies make us go to the bathroom to get rid of the waste. Qi in China, is quite similar to how Prana is understood in India.
The oxygen and food nutrients we breathe and eat respectively, go into the mitochondria of our cells (all 100 Trillion of them in our bodies), and energy is produced and even stored in those cells. All of us in the West learned this process in our biology classes in high school. The mitochondria takes the food nutrients and the oxygen and creates ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate…tri for three phosphates), and when the body needs energy, it breaks off one of those phosphates from that structure and turns it into ADP (adenosine di-phosphate…di because from the breaking and energy releasing, we now have only two phosphates left). But, Western medicine doesn’t fully explain where and how the energy that is released, travels in our bodies. Yes, some of it is used immediately by our cells, and some of it is stored as ATP in those same cells until it is needed.
But, what about the rest of the excess Qi we produce? Where does it go? How does it travel? Our blood travels through our arteries and veins. Our lymph has its own vessels it flows through. Where and how does energy flow in our bodies? The Chinese have known for centuries: the answer is through pathways called meridians. Essentially, meridians are highways in the body that not only connect external body parts that we can see and move, to one another, but also our vital organs to one another. It’s a fact of life that our organs are made up of cells, which make up tissues. For those body parts and organs to grow in the first place (in the womb during development and throughout our lives), our bodies needed/need more than things like amino acids/proteins as building blocks. They needed/need ENERGY as well.
Other than the Qi we got in the womb from our parents (called Pre-natal Qi, that we both store and use from our kidneys even after we are born), the energy we make while living in this world through the metabolic process explained above is our Post-natal Qi. But, a couple of factors are at play – 1) the WAY and efficiency with which we make and use our Qi is different in each of us, and also naturally declines with age if we don’t do anything about it, and 2) this Qi energy flows throughout our body through these meridian highways, (which have been acknowledged by the World Health Organization) and can get clogged/pinched, and even cut off, much like what can happen with our blood vessels.
Being the skeptic that I am, I asked how it’s possible man even discovered meridians to know they existed thousands of years ago. The answer that I got, as passed down in Chinese writings (though obviously different people will have different answers), is that when primitive man was cutting rocks/stones, and they would break off and shatter, parts of the body that were “hit” by the little pieces would bleed, whereas other parts would not. After observing this many times, the Chinese noticed similarities and patterns as to the areas on the body where blood never seeped out. For those who have been to an acupuncturist, you know that they can prick you with needles in locations all over your body, with no blood leaking – in fact there are 365 main acupuncture points – the coordinates of which have been shared with Western medicine doctors so that there is consistency across the world. How is it possible, when our bodies are FILLED with vessels all over, carrying our blood, that there is little to no bleeding when these locations are pierced by needles? The explanation: knowing the locations of meridians and meridian points.
Some more important background on meridians: there are two MAIN ones, 1) the REN, (running down the front center of our bodies) and, 2) the DU, running up the back center of our bodies. The front one extends from just above our chin, down that front center, and into the groin area – a place we in the West call our perineum. Then, the second main meridian (DU) starts just at the back of the tailbone, goes (also center) up and around our backs and our necks, over our heads, and down again to the front of our faces.
These two main meridians were connected when we were being carried by our mothers. Essentially energy flowed in our bodies in a complete circle – from the top of the main front meridian and down, then up the main back meridian to our heads. One would fill the other up, as meridians each only allow the passage of energy, up OR down – just ONE direction. While this almost perfect circle was created in the womb, it got separated as we grew, around the age of three for most/all of us.
That means, for mostly everyone on this earth, we have a body that was made to have two energy superhighways flowing in an efficient circle to deliver energy to smaller meridians all over to our extremities, organs, etc., that now operates with only ONE functional superhighway for the majority of our lives (the front REN meridian). The back, DU, no longer functions to distribute energy once the two are disconnected around that age of three.
It’s important to explain in more detail: that these two meridians were made to feed energy to six other (storage and carrier) meridians located throughout our bodies (as well as 12 other meridians that actually tie together and deliver Qi directly to all of our major organs). So, 20 meridians in total, two main ones which were feeding most/all of them, but now down to just one main one as our feeder meridian, after the age of three.
From day one in this course, we learned that if we practice Qigong meditation, we can actually create MORE Qi energy, we can “break through” and have “success,” and in doing so, ultimately reconnect our two main Qi superhighways so that more Qi flows more freely throughout our whole body to better provide the energy we need, regulate our vital organs/blood flow/hormones, etc., – and yes, send rich oxygenated blood flow and energy to our brains for optimizing involuntary body maintenance, mental health, and even intelligence.
So, this meditation is not a “mindfulness practice alone” like many meditations we know of and even practice. It’s literally a meditation to 1) create more Qi energy, 2) open up the meridians carrying the Qi, 3) re-connect the two main meridians together, and 4) get more energy and blood flow to our most important organ — our brain– so we can become balanced (explained below), to live happier and healthier lives via a system that was meant to self-regulate from within. Budiman calls this having a “24 hour doctor inside of us.” This means a system that can cure itself, prolong our lives, keep us energetic and happy even as we age. Sounds pretty amazing if true, right? Budiman, at 64 years young, had as much energy and enthusiasm at 12am on Saturday morning/Sunday night, after almost 14 straight hours of standing up teaching on our last day, as he did when the class first started a week prior. How can that be explained?
From day one we learned we all have the ability to meditate (by focusing on our EXHALE specifically & aiming it), to move existing Qi in areas already dispersed throughout our bodies to an area just above or stomachs/spleens called our solar plexus (so that we begin to process our food better, and EVEN MAKE MORE Qi from the more efficient breakdown of what we eat/drink). Could this possibly work?
One of the truly amazing things about this course was how Budiman (with a background in physiology), explained to us the exact sensations we might feel, if our Qi meditations were working at each step. For Step 1, we were told we all had a container in the middle of that first front REN meridian inside our bodies that is called a “Dan Tien.” Yes, energy begins to flow from our chin area down the front meridian that’s already open and working, but as it travels down, it starts to fill up this first container by our stomachs/spleens with that energy. (I don’t believe it to be safe for me to explain the exact meditation process or positions, as I am not an instructor and this blog is related to my observations from a one-week intensive class only. That said, I’ll give as much detail as possible so as to help you understand how and why this practice works, so that you may decide if you want to check out a class on your own. I’m not much of a note taker, and I like to learn by hearing, seeing, and absorbing, so apologies if any of the terms aren’t 100% accurate. That said, I feel pretty comfortable sharing this review of the content from the class).
If we concentrate our exhales on that container by our stomach/spleen, Qi energy from the rest of our body accumulates there over a number of sessions, causing (for me) a tightness and heaviness in that area. I literally felt this after only three separate 20 minute sessions, all on the first day. That tightness and heaviness was Qi flowing to my container, filling it up, providing energy to my stomach and spleen, causing them to work harder and more efficiently, and better breaking down my food nutrients for later absorption down in my intestines.
I woke up on day two, and despite a big dinner the night before, I was STARVING – my stomach was racing. Good thing many of the hotels in Jakarta come with buffet-style breakfast included with the rooms! I ate enough for a family of about three, on my own, that first morning (important to note that I ate a ton MORE than I usually do all week due to my increased hunger/metabolism from the steps explained below), and actually lost two lbs on the trip. That’s not an excuse to overeat ;), but it’s just further evidence that this practice works. On top of that, this first week you can’t go to the gym, as you are trying to conserve and build up Qi.
For Step 2, we learned that we have another container lower down on our front REN meridian, located 3 inches below our bellybuttons. This container is considered the “lower Dan Tien” and is the largest of all the energy containers in the body. The logic made sense: we were to concentrate on our breath moving our energy from our stomach/spleen container we’d now filled and made to overflow, to this larger/lower container, thus starting to fill it up as well. In the process of doing so, we would be passing Qi energy through our intestines now, improving the process of our peristalsis and food absorption, once again creating more Qi in our bodies from the more efficient breakdown of food nutrition. We were told our symptoms would create – funny enough, more gas – and yes that did cause some in the class to create a horn section of sounds the next few days. This improvement in peristalsis in our intestines also meant the expulsion of more toxins that had been caked into their walls over time. I’ll spare you the details as to how we were able to find out this was working, but let’s just say it did.
Step 3 was only slightly different than Step 2. Our breath and concentration moved exclusively to that lower container, instead of the path from the stomach down to it. In it being the biggest energy container in the body, the goal was now to fill it, and make it strong with energy overflow as well, so that the downward movement and momentum of the energy would actually accumulate and bust through the perineum area and into the beginning of the main back meridian, the DU, just below the tailbone. Meditation sessions were up to 45 minutes in length at this midpoint in the week, and we did two in class during the day, and were required to do three at home at night. That’s a LOT of meditation, but it’s what’s required for this re-connection of the front and back meridians to take place via Qi build-up.
The feelings once we had this “breakthrough” were different for each of us. For me, it felt like the mercury in a blood pressure monitor was jumping up and down in the center of my lower back, trying to make its way up, but not strong enough yet. For others it was pain and stiffness in the lower to mid back, or it was extreme heat or cold or even tingling, and for others right away they started to feel things even all the way up to their necks. That backside DU meridian, once opened, likely has blockages for most people, and so the way the energy passes through, disturbing different nerves, etc., can be different for everyone.
As we delved into Step 4, we were asked to notice the sensations of the Qi moving up our main back meridian even stronger than it had before. THIS was the time I really became a believer. Two gentlemen in my class – one sitting next to me actually – started to move involuntarily from the up-flow of energy. The one next to me was shaking almost uncontrollably in his torso. The other man was rocking back and forth as if he was a pendulum. Budiman actually filmed this happening, even though we all had our eyes closed for the sessions. When energy flows upwards in the DU meridian, a major meridian that hasn’t been used for the majority of our lives, we feel lighter as it shoots towards our head, and any type of movement is possible as it fills with energy for the first time since we were children.
Still not convinced yet? On the second day of practicing Step 4, I noticed my whole back getting tighter. It wasn’t tight in a bad way. In fact, we were up to hour-long meditation sessions at this point, and the energy propping my back up actually took away any fatigue or back pain I had felt in previous sessions from trying to sit up straight the whole time. These feelings only grew. One session I felt a sharp pain in my left trapezius only. Next session I felt tingling in the back of my neck. Then finally one more session and I had what Budiman calls “success” or in Chinese “Tong Guan” – passing through the gate. I felt the top of my head get all tight first, then tingly, then finally a water-like sensation drip down from that area of my head, to the front center of my nose and into the roof of my mouth, where the back DU meridian ends. That’s considered “success” because once that feeling is achieved, it means Qi has built up enough to open up the entire DU meridian, allowing it to actually fill up another container or “Dan Tien” on top of our heads, then have it overflow to the end of the DU inside the nose/middle roof of our mouths. Once I had achieved this Tong Guan, the next few sessions I actually started to rock back and forth during my meditations, much like the second gentleman I described in our class. My rocking wasn’t to the same level his was, but it felt like I was one of those promo streamer tubes in front of stores that they blow air up into and it gets thrown around uncontrollably in all directions to get the attention of passers by.
For me, there was no set pattern. Sometimes it was clockwise, sometimes back and forth, sometimes side-to-side. Rather than scary, it was actually soothing, relaxing, and quite rewarding to know that the energy had broken through the way it had. Not everyone had this type of intense reaction and that was ok. In fact, most in our class didn’t. But as someone sharing this experience back now with you, I felt obligated to open up about it. If this energy/Qi creation and movement process did not work, how do you explain these sensations and ultimately the movements? You could say – maybe the concentration on the exhale stimulates the CNS to cause these movements in some way, and that it’s not actually energy in the meridians doing the work – but the ORDER of the sensations from stomach to intestines to lower back to upper head to the middle of the roof of the mouth? I’m convinced it just wouldn’t happen in that same pattern for everyone in the class if this was just CNS stimulation alone. And again, the rocking personally solidified it for me.
Although I and many had felt the energy pass through and seep into the end of our DU meridian, we were far from done. Something I haven’t explained is that as we meditated (and now meditate in the future), the tip of our tongue had to be pressed to the midpoint of the roof of our mouths. Qi energy does not pass through open cavities. Therefore, the only way to get the end of the DU backside meridian to connect with the beginning of the front REN meridian, is through our tongue as the bridge. When the tongue is pressed up, and the Qi is strong enough, that SAME water flowing sensation can be felt dripping down into our tongues and back to the beginning of our front REN meridians in our chin. This circle of Qi flow is the re-connection we were aiming for all week. It’s referred to as Microcosmic Circulation. When this happens and this circle is re-established, we have what is referred to as an “internal breathing” system. It means we need to actually BREATHE LESS in order to do the same things we have done in the past. This makes our lungs healthier, lowers our heart rate, and has overall health benefits for the body/brain, which I’ll explain below. For those who have studied Qi, they may have seen Tai Chi incorporated into the practices I’m describing – gentle movements that look like dancing. That type of Qi practice is considered Macro, not Micro. Macro does help energy to flow better to parts of our bodies, but it does not PRODUCE more Qi the way this 5-Step Practice does. This is why Budiman focuses on this practice instead of Tai Chi. Some practitioners/teachers however do combine the two. I’m not sure I had another full week or more in me to find out how that would go, but maybe in the future as my Qi builds ;).
So how exactly do the health benefits work/what maladies are we avoiding, once we create this Microcosmic Circulation? Our air contains 20.8% oxygen, yet from the air we breathe in, we expel 15.3% on our exhale. That amount being exhaled out is why we are able to give mouth-to-mouth to someone who is not breathing. Not only does Qi practice improve the way we take in food nutrition, but it also improves the efficiency with which we take in and use oxygen.
Our necessity to breathe as frequently to get the oxygen we need, slows down. Whereas we may have needed to breathe in and out 20X per minute before practicing Qi, that number can go down to 15, 10, and in some cases even only 5X per minute. Our absorption of oxygen, known to be measured as our “Vmax” – if anyone has been to a pulmonologist for tests, becomes maximized. When this happens, our lungs don’t have to work as hard. Our lungs are also able to exhale more dust particles than before. Healthier lungs, working less, expelling more harmful particles, greater oxygen absorption and use, all are better for our overall bodies. And, all creates even more Qi – it’s like a cycle that keeps feeding itself.
The concentration on our exhaling also stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system – which allows us to relax more. From this stimulation, the production of cortisol decreases (cortisol is very harmful to our bodies when we are constantly under stress and secreting it). Our muscles throughout our body become relaxed too, causing those muscles, arteries, and veins to become smoother and more flexible, which is obviously better for blood flow, diminishing blockages and overall organ functioning (e.g., stretchiness of the surfaces of our heart & bladder as we age). The concentration on exhaling increases our melatonin production (so we can sleep better) as well as our serotonin production (a feel-good chemical for our brains that those of us with mental health complications know all too well, and which also boosts our immunity). Our pores on our skin open up more, and this enhances the detoxification of harmful chemicals from our bodies.
All of that being said – perhaps the GREATEST benefit of Qigong practice is how it strengthens our brains (and not just our THINKING brains the way we typically picture the role our brains). Qi balances our overall system – something the Chinese refer to as Yin/Yang balance – represented by a symbol most of us have seen at some point in our lives (showing opposites fitting together in the same circle).
In terms of the work our brains/CNS’s do – for which energy is used, we can oversimplify and say it falls into two categories: 1) controlling the function of our Autonomic Nervous System (basically the things we don’t consciously have to make happen like the speed of our heart beat and the regulation of other organs), and 2) controlling our Somatic Nervous Systems – things we notice and act on in our external world – such as our conscious and subconscious thinking related to events in our lives.
By bringing more energy to our brains from the Qi flow, we better stimulate both systems, but in particular, it’s very healthy that we stimulate the Autonomic System. Consider the Pituitary Gland which is a huge part of that System’s function. It’s incredible how much this pea-sized structure in our brains control so many of our body’s involuntary functions. The brain itself is only on average about 2% of our body weight. So, the Pituitary is a tiny portion of a small portion. But, it’s powerful. It’s responsible for: our growth hormone, prolactin (for milk production when women are pregnant), hormones that stimulate the adrenal glands, thyroid stimulating hormone (which controls our metabolism), follicle stimulating hormone (for our production of eggs and sperm and our sex drives), the pigment of our skin to protect us against the harmful rays of the sun, ADH for our kidneys so that we can absorb water, and the feel good drug many of us know – oxytocin. We strengthen our Pituitary Gland, and we strengthen all those functions in our body, and just like the lungs, this gland has to work less while it is operating optimally.
More on the brain itself – while it’s only about 2% of our body weight, it uses 20% of our total oxygen, and 25% of our total glucose. It receives 15% of the blood our hearts pump. We each have over 100 billion neurons, each with between 1K and 10k synapses. That’s a LOT of activity going on in our brains. If we were just to sit in a room and do nothing, the brain (parts like the Pituitary Gland and many others) in controlling many other parts of our system would burn roughly 150 calories every 24 hours. However, if we tried to problem solve for 24 hours straight (many of us have pulled all-nighters in school or work), we would burn 2,000 calories in 24 hours. No wonder we are exhausted all the time even when we don’t do physical activity. We myopically focus on work, and problem solving, we don’t give enough attention to rest and restoration practices. As a result, our Qi diminishes greatly, and many of us operate our day-to-days on energy deficits. Why is this low energy so bad?
Follow Budiman’s logic: we have over 100 trillion cells in our body. Cells split & continue to be produced as other cells die throughout our lives. As is the case with most processes at high volume, errors happen as cells multiply, and when our immune systems are strong, they sweep out those error cells.
As we get older, and more stress accumulates from the outside world, Qi becomes lower in our systems, our hormone levels start to get unbalanced, our immune systems take a huge hit, which leads to damaged cells sticking around, forming polyps, then tumors, then spreading more damaged cells throughout the body, and attacking healthy cells. Much like we say with mental health, we are all susceptible to life challenges…because of the above, we are actually all susceptible (every human), to damaged cells multiplying and causing illness. So YES, mental health very much DOES affect our susceptibility to physical health complications.
What happens when we get overtired? It means we keep thinking (our Somatic System is on fire) and we can’t shut it off. When this happens, many turn to a sleeping pill to suppress their thoughts. It works for a bit. The Somatic System then fights back and they need to up dosages – until eventually even a very high dose doesn’t work and their whole system is out of balance. For those who read my original post about my PTSD condition I posted about a year ago, I mentioned that my integrative psychiatrist had prescribed an “Alpha-Stim” machine for me. When the Somatic System is in overdrive, our brainwaves travel very fast most of the time, in what’s called Beta frequency. The Alpha-Stim machine (clipped to the earlobes for an hour per day) slows down those brain waves to a more healthy Alpha frequency throughout most of the day. Qi practice, as I found out this week, also helps convert our brain waves from Beta to Alpha!
This practice of Qi and bringing energy ultimately to the brain is meant to get our Autonomic Nervous Systems to work more and catch up in ability and intensity with the way our Somatic Systems have been turbo charged in this ridiculously fast-paced and high-stress world we now live in. Wonder why mental health has become such a hot topic? Wonder again why mental health has been linked in the Western World to declining physical health? As our world gets more fast-paced, our balance is thrown even more off, our energy is depleted more and more, and as a result, we uncover the biggest contributing factor to this epidemic our world is facing. We are susceptible to all of the complications Budiman explained above because most of us are doing nothing daily, to balance out these systems.
When there is energy depletion from stress/anxiety/aging/over exercising, etc., our Autonomic System specifically does not get nearly the amount of “gas” it needs to properly run our body, to secrete needed hormones, to keep our immune system strong, and to fight off disease and complications. Youngsters don’t have this problem because with high metabolisms, they produce a ton of Qi, can play sports and activities all day, and there is reserve for all their systems to work well. Not the case as we age, and more stress and life situations pile up – on top of any genetic predispositions we may have.
As we age and more stress mounts, we don’t get restful deep sleep when our Somatic Systems are on overdrive and are using up the Qi energy our systems produce. When this happens, we don’t process information from our days nor store that info properly during sleep. Our memory, perception, and cognitive abilities are affected greatly. We wonder what is going wrong with us, as both systems aren’t working properly. Our days become a mish-mosh mess.
I can SO relate to this state from my PTSD crash. My conscious and subconscious thoughts – both controlled by the Somatic System, had all these memories and “what ifs” running through it related to the health of my brother for all those years, as well as the passing of my close friends. I did nothing for my mental health to release and rewire stress and slow down this system, nor provide my overall body with more energy. In fact, I probably went the opposite way – going to the gym more late at night, overworking after strenuous office work, and depleting my system even more. I didn’t know any better. My Autonomic System therefore wasn’t working properly, because I wasn’t getting enough quality sleep from the Somatic being on overdrive, and likewise, my energy was so low, not being able to perform necessary functions during sleep, leaving me more exhausted waking up than when I fell asleep. It became a viscous cycle of more questions about what I was feeling – ending up in the spiraling depletion of energy from both systems. If I had kept that up, not only would I have gone through the mental health crash I did, my physical health likely would have started to decline as well.
Our goal in Qigong Meditation is to break and turn around this cycle. Budiman believes at a minimum, we should meditate one hour, uninterrupted, each day, in order so that we can slip into what’s called “DMS,” or Deep Meditative State. It’s at THAT point that our Autonomic Nervous System is actually more powerful than our Somatic. What’s the hardest part about any meditation you’ve tried? It’s shutting out and not letting your thoughts control your practice – and that’s because our world trains our Somatic to be on overdrive and in control ALL the time. Qi meditation, concentrating on our exhale and filling our “energy containers” in our bodies, allows us to slow down that Somatic System, ramp up more Qi – Qi that is used by our Autonomic Nervous System, so that we become healthier everywhere in our bodies. That energy creation and spreading to make our systems healthier – for physical and mental health, is the main difference (to me), between Qigong Meditation and other meditation practices. Other meditations certainly slow down our Somatic Systems when we get into a meditative state, but as I understand them, they do not open up and connect the two main meridians, nor do they create more energy from food nutrients to provide more fuel to our Autonomic System, balance us out, and actually slow down and even reverse the aging process in our brains, bodies, and other organs. That’s not knocking other meditations. I love doing them too. It’s instead advocating for why this particular type of meditation seems so important. In Step 5, we were taught to continue with our concentrated exhaling, but now jump our minds, every 10-15 seconds between our three Qi containers in our body: Upper, Middle, and Lower.
I’m not sure there is a better justification as to why Qigong Meditation is a must – to break the cycle of constant overthinking and stress in our lives, to give us the energy we need for all of our systems to operate optimally over the long-haul, and for us to live healthier lives both physically and mentally.
I must end on this because I am floored by it. Budiman’s teacher developed this 5-Step Process once again, in the 1960s/1970s. AFTER it was developed, the Chinese people found two incredibly important artifacts – both of which were originally created hundreds of years, B.C. One was an inscription on a wall in a cave, and one was an inscription on a piece of jade found in the tomb of a king. Inscriptions on BOTH pieces, from areas in China that were unrelated to one another, describe this 5-Step Process almost verbatim. The one on the cave was done more through pictures, and the one on the jade, more through words. But both talked about the energy creation in the containers, this exhaling/concentration process, and how to live a long and healthy life. I asked Budiman why, if a similar process had been created by two different groups of ancient people thousands of years ago, this particular process wasn’t more well-known throughout China, and instead it took his teacher to develop something similar even before these inscriptions were found by modern society. His answer was so interesting: in ancient times, knowledge was great power – and you didn’t want to just openly share knowledge. You kept it to yourself and your people.
Knowing that, I’m beyond grateful that Budiman has created this learning program to spread HIS knowledge, and I am beyond grateful to my sponsor for sending me to learn myself, so that I could feel even better, and share this with you all. We all face challenges in our lives, some more than others. But, these challenges (even ones exclusively related to our physical health) ALL affect our Mental Health. #SameHere🤙!