What is Qigong?

Qigong is a form of energetic exercise that arises from an ancient Chinese tradition of martial arts and meditative movement practices. Qigong is actually a modern term that originated in the mid 20th century to describe the enormous variety of Chinese energetic exercises that had developed over the past several millenia. Taichi (or taiji chuan) is the more popular, more complex cousin of Qigong and is a true martial art. They both arise out of ancient practice of what is called daoyin, which is simply a “way of movement”, but encompasses any movement practice for health purposes, including self-massage and other physical exercises. Qigong is less of a martial art and more of a meditative practice intended to exercise the mind and strengthen and invirogate the qi. Qigong literally means “energy work” or “breath work”. One big difference between Taichi and Qigong is that there are generally more complex movements in Taichi and many of the movements involve the feet. In the majority of Qigong practices, the feet are often stationary and the hands do the movement. Some Qigong practices are simply meditative postures that don’t require movement at all. Sometimes people even make up their own energetic movements as part of their Qigong practice – this is called spontaneous Qigong.

The purpose of Qigong is to increase health and extend life. In Chinese medical theory, some believe that the only way to increase one’s pre-heaven essence is through Qigong – this is a profound statement. For some, sitting meditation can be difficult as it can be challenging to stand still for extended time. The practice of Qigong offers a fantastic alternative to sitting meditation in that it enables one to meditate while moving one’s body. This confers all the benefits of meditation plus the benefits of bodily awareness (mindfulness) and better postural practices. The same can be said for Taichi. Some Qigong exercises can be quite vigorous and either stretch and strengthen the muscles and joints or invigorate blood flow through the active movement of the body.

I have a saying that I often use in trying to explain the what I think is purpose of Qigong:

How strongly you can feel the qi in your hands is directly related to your level of success in your Qigong practice.

What I mean by this is to point out the importance of Qigong being first-and-foremost a mental exercise. It is a moving meditation on the life force energy that penetrates all of matter and encompasses the entire universe. To learn more about the nature of qi, click here.

The experience of qi can occur to different individuals in drastically different ways. This is due to your unique energy field and your relationship and role to play in the greater energy field in which we live. Generally, when one practices Qigong the experience of feeling the qi in one’s hands can be felt as

  • heat
  • cold
  • buzzing
  • tingling
  • numbness
  • heaviness
  • softness
  • magnetic (like your hands are magnets, either attracting or repelling)
  • electrical
  • flowing (like water)
  • spinning
  • pressure

and other sensations.

For some, this sensation comes easily and they might have profound qi sensations the first time they practice. To other, experiences the movement and the feeling of qi through Qigong takes time and work. Regardless of how it manifests for you – don’t give up. Every second you take out of your day to practice Qigong will improve your life.

The following video is one of my favorites to get people into the Qigong mindset:

I find Roger Jahnke’s work to be some of the very best. In my humble opinion, Roger Jahnke has “got it right” in his attitude towards the practice of Qigong. Regardless of one’s level of skill and regardless of what form (the particular set of exercises) one practices, we can always adopt the kind of attitude that Jahnke does – one of reverance,  meditation, and prayer – when we engage in the practice of Qigong. I think this will lead to deeper and longer lasting results.

There is much more to say about the practice of Qigong. If you would like to know more, you can contact me here. Have a blessed journey in your practice of Qigong. I believe it is truly foundational in a deeper experience of life and will open up many doors to you.

Brainwave Entrainment & Bilateral Stimulation

Brainwave entrainment and bilateral stimulation can help reduce the symptoms of:

  • Stress
  • Fatigue, bodily or mental
  • Mental overwork, overthinking
  • Stuck emotions or thought-patterns needing to be processed
  • Bodily or mental-emotional trauma

“Brainwave entrainment” is the use an external stimulus to synchronize brainwave oscillations in ways that are measurable in QEEG. Auditory entrainment is the use of specific sound frequencies and combinations of auditory stimuli to alter brainwave activity. If you’ve ever heard of “binaural beats”, these are a subset of the fascinating technology known as brainwave entrainment or BWE. The form of BWE that will discussed here and which is employed at Source is auditory entrainment.

Just to toot my own horn a little, in 2012 I wrote my Bachelors thesis (in Psychology) on “Brainwave Entrainment: An Impetus for the Future of Medicine”, a lofty and lengthy meta-analysis of all of the scientific literature on BWE to date. At that time, there were only a total of 30 published research articles on the phenomenon of BWE. Now, a quick Google Scholar search of the term “brainwave entrainment” pulls up over 800 results.

I have been experimenting with binaural beats, isochronic tones, and other forms of BWE for ten years. Soon after beginning using alpha and beta brainwaves while reading, I realized that this was a technology that would have change the course of my childhood had I known about it sooner. Focused attention while reading was always something I struggled with growing up. BWE gave me the ability to read with focus and clarity like I’d never experienced in my life. I knew then that this was something I should take seriously, so I went on to study it academically while in my undergraduate program and continue to study it to this day.

How does it work?

 If I were to clap my hands while standing next to you, a certain portion of the temporal lobe of your brain would “light up” in response to the neural input coming in through your auditory sense. If I were to clap my hands at a specific rate, say six times per second (6Hz), then your brain would be “lighting up” at the rate at which I’m clapping my hands (on top of the “light show” that is all the rest of your neural activity).

Neurons fire. They fire at a range of different rates based on what they’re processing. These neural firings are collectively and colloquially known as “brainwaves”. When you look at the range of frequencies produced by the firing of the neurons in the brain, certain patterns begin to emerge. We now know that certain states of consciousness are associated with brainwave patterns that fall into certain frequency ranges. For instance, if you are reading this it means you are awake and that the dominant range of brainwaves in your noggin are in what’s called the Beta range, which ranges from 16-31Hz (depending on who you ask). It’s important to note that none of these delineations are hard-fast and that it’s more helpful to think of these things as existing on a spectrum. If you want to know more about brainwave frequencies, check this out or just ask me.

In the entrainment literature there is something called a “frequency following response” where the entrained frequency is induced in nearby neurons and spreads to other areas of the brain – like synchronous fireflies. If more of your neurons are firing within a given frequency range, then you are more likely to experience the states of consciousness that are associated with that brainwave frequency range. It is really that simple.

There is an old axiom from the early days of neuropsychology that goes: “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” Think about the implications of this regarding what your mind is processing while a majority of your neurons are all dancing to the beat of the same drum.

Bilateral Stimulation

I have been experimenting with home-made BWE for ten years, but it wasn’t until recently that I discovered the magic of bilateral stimulation. “Bilateral stimulation” simply a means of facilitating harmony between the left and right hemispheres of the brain by stimulating one side of the body (and thereby the brain) and then the other, alternating back and forth. This could be as simple as tapping your feet from left to right.

This technique is employed in therapies like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprogramming) and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, “Tapping”) to facilitate communication between the hemispheres. Elevated states of consciousness during prayer or meditation are often associated with a balanced synchrony between the left and right. When the left and right hemispheres are talking appropriately, there is a sense of balance and of peace.

The sounds I use for BWE with bilateral stimulation phase from left to right to encourage this cross-talk. They also employ Pythagorean intervals in an A Major chord (A=216Hz) (more on my fascination with Pythagorean intervals on my sound healing page, or go straight to the Geesink & Meijer meta-analysis here). This particular set of intervals entrains the brain to a set of Gamma frequencies. Gamma brainwaves are used in high-level cognitive processing and frontal-lobe activity in general. It has been demonstrated in EEG studies that frequent meditators have higher base-level Gamma power in their brains.

In effect, what the BWE sounds I use do is encourage the left and right hemispheres to process information at a deep level. In sessions with me there is often a sense of peace and relaxation – some experience deep states of meditation or spontaneous visualizations. Many clients fall asleep. This is encouraged! They often wake up feeling refreshed and alert.

Ready to try it for yourself?