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Beautiful Traps – being good at qigong

There are many beautiful traps in the realms of qigong. There are many a cul-de-sac to get stuck in, and many a place to fool yourself that you’ve mastered the practice.

In fact, you could argue that there are so many places to get stuck that it’s futile to try and avoid these traps and more important to give yourself permission to get it wrong and learn from your mistakes.

While making mistakes and getting things wrong may not correspond with our intention when developing a new skill, it is in fact one of the best methods of learning and developing, after all, without the acceptance that things could be done better, nothing would ever evolve.

Mistaking effortlessness as the destination.

When we gain a skill, we gain effortlessness… I may be wrong on this, but bear with me… When I reflect on skills that I have gained, the process of gaining the skill is quite often either physically or mentally demanding. Whether it’s learning to ride a bike or mastering the use of a new piece of technology, the process goes through stages that start with the need to use significant physical or mental effort and result in the ability to apply the skill with minimal or no effort. 

This effortlessness that we experience in gaining a skill can be described as muscle memory or programming, but what it really means is that you will not waste your energy trying to figure out what comes next in a particular context, you instinctively know it and respond accordingly. This is the nature of mastering a skill.

As with any skill, the skill serves a purpose. There is a right time to apply the skill and there is wrong time. Imagine that you have just mastered the skill of hammering in a nail with a single blow, this would be helpful when building things, but despite the sense of satisfaction you may gain from demonstrating the skill, it would be fairly pointless in any other situation. The same is true of qigong.

Effortlessness is the start of a journey, not the destination

Learning a new form or a new sequence may feel good, but unless you apply it in the appropriate way, you are simply enjoying the effortlessness without understanding the application or learning. You are, in effect, going out to hammer in nails just because it makes you feel good without ever building anything.

Now don’t get me wrong, if the aim of your qigong practice is to make you feel good about knowing qigong forms, this is the perfect place to arrive at and bask in self congratulatory glory, but other than building your self image as a qigong practitioner, this is a pretty futile exercise.

Once the form has been learned, once you have mastered the movements, this is the point that you have the choice to either show off your new skill or build something meaningful. My personal feeling is that mastery of the form should always be the start of your exploration, not the point at which you move on to collect another skill without ever knowing the potential of the one that you have just gained.

The Eternal Student

If, as suggested, mastering a new form of qigong is actually the start of a journey, would you ever want to stop learning from your new skill?

At the heart of Zhineng Qigong there is a very simple technique called La Qi. La Qi is simply opening out and gathering in, but you could also say it is releasing and refreshing, it is dissolving and reforming, it is expanding and contracting. This simple process is the fundamental building block of all moving qigong and while the movement is simple, the potential is huge. Within the movement is everything you need to learn, but we need to be open to exploring all the physical and mental nuances of the technique, we need to understand how it is effective in both our dedicated practice times and our lives in general. For some people, La Qi is all they need because they will be able to remain fully engaged in the continuous unfolding that this practice has to offer, but for many (me included) we need more variations, we need to explore these underlying movements through a broader range of movements and techniques.

Whether you are fortunate enough to be one of the people who can keep learning from a simple, profound form such as La Qi, or you need to have a few more tools in your tool kit, the trick is to find the right tools with which to remain an eternal student, not of the forms and practices, but of the deeper understanding and unfolding that qigong offers.


Being good at qigong is not about knowing the form and moving with effortless elegance. It’s not about being able to perform amazing feats in public or winning qigong competitions (yes, they do really exist). Being good at qigong is about having the open-mindedness and awareness to be constantly exploring, constantly learning and constantly transforming. Being good at qigong is about oneness, equality and connectedness.

Qigong is about enjoying the journey of self discovery; one day, you may reach a point at which there is nothing more to be learned from qigong, but if you feel the urge to let people know that you have arrived at your destination, that isn’t the day…

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