Qigong and Paranormal Abilities

Is qigong a little bit too weird for its own good?

Before I go any further, I would like to clarify that the term ‘paranormal’ has been adopted in the realms of Zhineng Qigong as a translation of the Chinese phrase 超常智能 (chāo cháng zhì néng).

This is a questionable translation, a more literal translation is: extraordinary intelligence (the Zhineng aspect translating as ‘intelligence’), so please don’t think in terms of ghosts, psychic abilities and UFO’s, think more along the lines things that are not normal, extraordinary things…

A little while back, I was having a conversation with a Taiji group in the USA. The group were discussing Taiji for health and I couldn’t help but ask why they didn’t talk about Qigong for health. Their response was a little unexpected:

“Qigong has an image problem, Taiji is far more relevant and accessible…”

This was certainly not the response I was expecting. My experience of qigong is that it is amazing for both physical and mental health and I hadn’t even considered there to be an image problem, so I asked them to explain.

It turns out that for this particular group, Qigong is inextricably linked to people proving their level of attainment (or gong fu) by demonstrating their paranormal or extraordinary abilities and this has made them question the real world benefits of the practice, especially when it comes to health, wellbeing and self cultivation.

I couldn’t help but agree with them, when this is your experience of Qigong, it may be impressive and mystical, but it can also make the practice seem inaccessible and irrelevant.

Spiritual cul-de-sacs

Please don’t get me wrong, over the years I have been wowed by people who are able to do amazing things with the practice. I’ve met people who use ‘empty force’, studied with teachers who have become transparent and others who can drop their breath rate so low that people think they’re dead, but to what end?

The sad truth is that most of these people have got to a certain level of practice and never got any further. It’s almost like they’ve set off on an amazing car journey and at some point they’ve looked out of the window and seen a beautiful waterfall, so they’ve got out of the car and spent the rest of their lives staring at the view instead of continuing with their journey.

When these people teach, they have a tendency to try and get their students up to the same level of attainment, while somehow still imposing a hierarchy that will prevent the student from exceeding the teacher (another bug-bear of mine).

The truth of the matter is that amazing things are possible, many of them well beyond what we think of as normal, but this doesn’t mean that we should be distracted by them. They are simply traps for the ego… There’s a phrase for this:

“Just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should…”

The loss of innate ability

Of more interest to me is the idea that we are all born with special abilities, but these are lost as we grow up. It’s not to say that we all have the same abilities at birth, but we do lose a certain amount of our innate abilities as we become more conditioned to the culture that we are growing up in.

Generally an ability to do something unusual will mean that we stand out from the crowd and this is not a desirable trait for most children who want to belong within certain social groups.

It’s very easy to blame the education system for sanitising our children and imposing the type of conformity that suppresses these abilities, but the truth is that it’s probably the need for social acceptance that leads to this kind of suppression and it’s more of a cultural thing than an educational thing.

Ironically, I’ve met many people along the way who want to regain these innate abilities in adulthood in order to stand out from the crowd. 

Within the Zhineng Qigong system we often hear about qigong teachers encouraging preschool children to enjoy their innate abilities. They play games to show that it’s fun to know what card someone has in their hand or what they have just drawn without ever having actually been shown the card or the image. They encourage the children to embrace and enjoy their natural intuition, their natural abilities and not mask.

Is intuition learned or relearned?

I like the idea that through practices such as qigong we can rediscover our innate abilities, we can start to develop a type of intuition that can help us to understand situations and reactions in a more open and honest manner. 

We are born with this ability but we suppress it and lose faith in ourselves. As we grow older we may choose to relearn these skills, but in reality we are simply unlearning the societal conditioning and self doubt that masks our innate ability.

To conclude:

Paranormal abilities is an unfortunate term in the realms of qigong, it tends to err on the side of entertainment and intrigue. It suggests that we are able to explore the world of the weird, when in actual fact we are more interested in unmasking our innate abilities. 

When studying qigong you are likely to come across strange and unusual things, but these are distractions, these are traps and cul-de sacs… What is important in the practice is in rediscovering who you are without all the judgements and restrictions. A good teacher will be able to guide you through these areas with grace and ease.

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