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The qi body

In Health and Healing, Meditation and Mindfulness, Mind and Movement by LivingNow1 Comment

The qi body – a central tool for daily life, meditation, healing and bodywork.


Go for a swim in the cool ocean this spring, and when you jump out, notice the tingling and warmth flowing all over your body. This is an experience that goes beyond the physical. It is also the qi body being revitalised and refreshed from the dip in the sea. For those looking to tap into this source of feeling alive, there are a number of simple methods to help you learn how to tap into this level of life force or qi all the time.

Awakening perception at the level of qi or life force improves your ability to look after your health and directly boosts your experience of non-physical realms. Quite simply, it makes you feel more alive and awake, as well as making the world a more interesting place.

The qi body can be seen as the body of vibration, well known in a number of ancient systems of medicine, meditation and martial arts. qi is a term used in traditional Chinese medicine to refer to life force. This is similar to what is known as prana in the Indian system. It is also termed the etheric body by Dr Rudolf Steiner of the Anthroposophical tradition and Dr Samuel Sagan, founder of the Clairvision School of meditation.

“The etheric body is sometimes referred to as the ‘body of energy’. However, it must be made clear that when the word ‘energy’ is used to talk about the etheric, it does not refer to any of the physical energies explored by physicists. Etheric energy exists on another level, beyond the physical”, Dr Sagan says in his correspondence course, ‘Subtle bodies: the fourfold model’.

Here are some practical tips to help you get in touch with your qi body:

1. Gaining perception of the qi body

There are many techniques that help people to develop subtle awareness of the qi body. One of the most practical exercises that anyone can do to experience their qi is the ‘shaking hands’ technique.

This involves shaking the hands extremely vigorously for a few minutes. When you stop shaking, hold them out still in front of you, and closing your eyes, just feel the sensations in the area of the hands. Some people describe the result as tingling, vibration, movements, warmth or flowing feelings in the area of the hands.

The interesting thing is that the sensations often extend beyond the hands or finger tips by a few millimetres. Once you have perception of the qi body, it becomes clear that it also extends beyond the physical vehicle.

Many people experience qi in their daily lives without even realising it. In his book, ‘Tai Chi Theory & Martial Power’, Dr Yang, Jwing-Ming says, “Qi is often associated with a feeling of warmth or tingling which many people experience.”

Dr Yang describes qi in Chinese as having two different meanings. He says the first meaning of qi refers to ‘kong qi’, meaning air, and the second is qi, meaning energy.

“Many Chinese believe that everything in the universe has its own energy field – every animal and plant, even inanimate objects like rocks. Living things have a particularly strong energy field circulating through them. When this circulation is disturbed, illness results, and when it stops there is death,” Dr Yang says.

2. Practical exercise: tuning into a tree awakens subtle perception of qi

Awakening the qi body can change your whole orientation of life. Instead of a two-dimensional cardboard cut-out viewed from the box of the ordinary mental consciousness, the world becomes a rich fabric of vibration, texture, sensation and movement.

Developing this level of awareness takes some practice and time, but it is available to everyone.
A simple exercise to begin with is the art of tuning into trees. There is a lot of wisdom stored in trees. Dr Sagan points out that the Buddhist tradition insists that Shakyamuni Buddha reached enlightenment under a tree, a ficus religiosa in Bodhgaya. He says that in Australia there is a tree of the same family called the Moreton Bay fig (ficus macrophylla), which looks a bit like a banyan.

“It [the Moreton Bay fig] is a huge, magnificent tree always ready to advise you. If you can find a tree of equivalent energy, it is a blessing. Whenever you have to undergo a big inner shift you can sit under the tree and meditate, and the tree will help”, Dr Sagan says.

Tuning into trees is an ability that develops gradually. In the beginning, you just get a certain feeling so that you are only partly tuned in. The trick is then to intensify the connection through total inner silence and stillness. You let the qualities of the tree become alive in you until you reach the stage where you feel like you ‘become’ the object. A great way to develop perception is to learn to vibrate with different trees. After some practice, you will discover that different trees have different energies.

3. Third eye as the switch for the qi body

One technique to build more subtle perception of the qi body is working on the third eye or the centre of energy located on the forehead. In fact, the third eye has been described as a switch for the body of energy at large.

Quite simply, the area between the eyebrows can become a tool for perceiving non-physical vibration, both in your own body and in the world at large.

Many people who experience the third eye through meditation techniques relay that they do have movements in their whole body of energy.

“The third eye is the gate that opens to the space of consciousness and to the inner worlds. It is also the main organ through which the body of energy can be awakened and governed. So, practically, the third eye acts as a ‘switch’, which can activate higher frequencies of the body of energy and thereby lead to higher states of consciousness”, Dr Sagan says in his book, ‘Awakening the Third Eye’.

Four benefits of developing the third eye

1) Sick clients tend to get better when they connect with their third eye due to the direct impact on the physical body.

2) Development of spiritual vision makes ordinary life extraordinary! Seeing hidden dimensions behind the obvious makes the most mundane thing fascinating.

3) Development of an organ of self-knowledge.

4) The third eye builds bridges and pathways from our ordinary ‘caged’ mental consciousness to higher expanded states of consciousness.

4. Building the qi body

There are many different methods and purposes of working on the qi body. An easy way to begin is simply to watch for movements of energy and subtle vibration when you go about your daily activities, especially when outdoors or doing exercise.

A number of martial arts also focus many techniques on building the qi body.

“According to Chinese history, qi was first noticed 4000 years ago. Later, when its importance to health was realised, methods were researched to enhance its circulation. The Chinese people have used these methods for more than 2000 years to improve their health. Eventually it was realised that this enhanced qi circulation and could be used in the martial arts to support the muscles and strengthen offensive and defensive techniques”, says Dr Yang.

5. Healing and the qi body

Developing awareness of the subtle levels of energy in the qi body can help people learn to detect potential health problems before they occur. Taking this one step further, subtle perception of the qi body can even help to build health in this area.

While many illnesses do initiate at the level of the physical body, there are a number of illnesses that are caused in the qi body. At the same time, any illness has an impact on the qi body at some level. Skin cancer, for example, develops at the physical level of the body but there would be an impact on the qi body.

People have been using the qi body as a tool for health and healing for hundreds or even thousands of years. In ancient China, for example, they had a completely different attitude to health. The doctor was paid while you were well, but when you got sick, you stopped paying.

Last but not least, the whole system of traditional Chinese medicine is based on the principle of qi. “Acupuncture harmonises the circulations of qi, or etheric energy, in order to generate rearrangements in the physical body – which result in health improvements. Moreover, acupuncture aims at correcting qi disorders before they result in a physical ailment”, Dr Sagan says.

Samantha Keen is a freelance journalist and writer who is passionate about meditation and transforming her energetic body. She is currently studying at the Clairvision School of meditation, as well as writing a book about recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

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  1. Dear Ms Keen, I found your article “The qi body” very interesting and enticing.

    I suffered a back injury about 5 1/2 years ago. I have been treating with pain medication and steroid injections. The injury has laft unable to tolerate much standing or walking. Consequently i do not get out much and by-the-by I have come to feel chronically without energy.
    Recently I heard of Dr. Russell Targ. Listening to his lectures led me round-abouts to here. I feel the answer to my chronic pain and the cosequent other challenges lay in the area of the qi body and use of meditation of which sadley I am merely a fledgling in spite of my advanced age of 62 years old.

    I therefore look forward to the release of your book with great relish.

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