Qigong offers a unique approach to managing stress. You may think Qigong is solely an exercise routine, but it’s so much more than that. In addition to its fluid movements, Qigong teaches us how to create a life filled with health, happiness, and wellbeing.
What is stress
Stress is defined as physical or emotional tension. It’s a response to a pressure or a threat that feels overwhelming and more than we can manage in the moment. Eventually, it takes its toll on our health and well-being.
In our modern western world, many of us see stress as a part of life, a badge of achievement, a signal to ourselves and others that we are doing our best. Consequently, most of us assume stress is a fact of life - but is it really? What are the factors that create stress in our lives? Usually, we start by blaming external events such as an increased workload, a sick family member, loss of income, or a circumstance that knocks our fragile balance off-kilter. It’s when stress finally impairs our health and well-being that we tend to look for greater insight.
How to reduce stress
It’s true that external events may indeed trigger a period of stress. However, it’s how we respond to that trigger that is the key. Ren Xue sees stress as a state of mind controlled by the patterns of our consciousness - the habits, beliefs, and values that we’ve absorbed from our families, friends, schools, and the media. Our patterns can range from self-centeredness to skepticism, a desire to please, competitiveness, perfectionism, judgment, or irritation. Think of these patterns as akin to wearing a pair of uncomfortable shoes - they create discomfort and tension. We can exchange uncomfortable patterns for ones that are more comfortable, just as we can exchange the uncomfortable shoes for ones that don’t cause pain.
Transforming stress patterns
The Ren Xue system, with nine Yuan Qigong methods for both moving and still practices, teaches us how to cultivate a relaxed, peaceful way of being. The Ren Xue system emphasizes cultivating a calm, relaxed state and the identification and replacement of internally held beliefs and patterns that promote physical and emotional tension. This is a long-term approach that can completely transform your life. Surprisingly, it requires the same amount of work to create a life of misery as it does to create a harmonious life. Which do you choose?
Relaxation for stress relief
Each of the nine Yuan Qigong methods begins with relaxation. When we are tense, our Qi does not flow easily and so Qigong must be practiced in a relaxed state to be effective. With attention and intent, we learn to change our internal state from one of tension and unease to one that is calm and easygoing. With time, you can develop the ability to change from a harried to a relaxed state in a few minutes. Eventually, the calm and relaxed state you cultivate in your practice begins to bring a positive change in your daily life. As our Qi begins to flow in a smooth, natural manner, we are able to respond to challenges with ease and flexibility.
Strengthening body, Qi, and mind
The first three Ren Xue methods teach us to move our attention from our external to our internal world and to relax. These methods help to strengthen our bodies by removing Qi blockages and stagnation and by increasing our levels of Qi and its movement through the body. From this foundation, the next three methods open Qi channels at a deeper level and connect the microcosmic orbit. The final three methods are still forms that strengthen our connection to our spiritual heart and to our True Self.
Changing unhealthy patterns with Qigong
While the first six methods have a positive impact on our consciousness, it is with the seventh and eighth methods, Tong Yuan (Opening the Heart) and Ling Yuan (Changing Patterns), that we begin to look deeply into our habits of consciousness to change the patterns that restrict our health, happiness, and wellbeing.
The eighth method Ling Yuan (Changing Patterns) uses a system of inquiry between the spiritual heart and the True Self to trace the source of the target pattern and to select a more positive pattern to replace it. The selection of the new pattern is guided by the heart and the True Self and is often surprising - a song, an image, or perhaps a word or phrase that is deeply meaningful or evocative to us. Consequently, this method has a profound effect on our consciousness and our day-to-day life.
Let’s go back to the metaphor of the uncomfortable shoes. Like shoes, if you find your patterns are not moving you towards the life you want, change them! As T.S. Elliot so eloquently says in his Four Quartets, “To arrive at a place you have never been, you must go by a way you do not know.” Use the elegant and effective Ren Xue system to arrive at a place of well-being!