10 in 2010: Ch'i, inside and out

close shot of hands of people doing tai chi

So far, and 48+ years is pretty far, I've not been able to sit still long enough to meditate.

I've read about, listened to and met actual benefactors of its benefits, but if you sit me down for more than five minutes at a time without something to do (besides the not-doing of meditation), I start itching all over.

I get that I'm not alone in this; I also get that one of the points to having a practice is practicing, which eventually leads to getting better at it. But I can't, or won't let myself, get over that hump.

Similarly, while I'm equally aware of the benefits of regular, old physical exercise, I've had real problems creating a routine around it. My genius plan of renting a mailbox a little over a mile from my apartment worked for a while, until it didn't. (Did you know you can also drive your car both ways in about half the time? I know!) Besides, while walking clears the mind and even provides a bit of cardio work, provided you do it briskly enough, it doesn't do a whole lot in the way of enhancing flexibility or building strength.

Enter Nei Kung, an internal form of qigong, which itself is a type of slow and precise moving meditation that gets the chi, or energy, flowing. According to my instructor, Jim Borrelli, Nei Kung is way more obscure, at least, compared to other kinds of qigong, and was developed to give martial artists extra reservoirs of strength to use in fighting. I'm disinclined to fight, but who wouldn't want extra strength, especially when it came bundled with better energy, focus, flexibility, and peace of mind come. The obscure part, on the other hand, was obvious: you see qigong or tai chi being practiced on grassy mountaintops in every other montage commercial promoting wellness or yogurt, but who the hell has heard of Nei Kung?

I have now, obviously, and have been doing it regularly, almost every day, which is unheard of for me, for nine weeks now. I know this because every week, I cut a big, fat check for the privilege of one-on-one training, which, unless you're in New York City and can score some kind of class situation with Master C.K. Chu (who taught my teacher, who is one of the smallest handful of people Chu has so deputized), or maybe if you're plugged into some arcane Chinese martial arts circuit, it ain't gonna happen. Believe me, I'm frugal enough to self-identify as outright cheap, and there's no way I'd pay for this if it wasn't necessary. Or worth it.

So far, it is, and that's been true since Day One. My Internet friend, Alan, had a similar experience with Nei Kung: maybe we both have Nei Kung-friendly bodies*; maybe we were both martial artists in a former, Chinese life. Whatever the cause, each of us seems to have taken to it like a duck to water, and for my part, I can tell you it's a relief: after beating myself up over not liking running, cycling, weight training or yoga, to do something I'm good at that makes me feel good is an extraordinary gift, especially 48+ years into the game. (Which reminds me, hate all games, too.)

My commitment is to practice Nei Kung for 25 minutes every morning, session dates excepted (I get a mammoth dose of it then). For the winter, I've shifted my practice to sit between reading and breakfast, since the half-hour or so of reading gives the heater a chance to kick in. Exceptions will most likely be made to accommodate travel and the insane bloody heat that seizes the E-Z-Bake Ovenâ„¢ around August.

As far as the outside chi goes, Item #4 is to feng shui the place bagua by bagua, starting with the Skills & Knowledge sector. As author Karen Rauch Carter (wisely) says in her book and my feng shui bible, no matter what you're looking for, money, health, success, you'll have a hell of an easier time of it if you buff out the gray matter.

But more on that later...


*Mine is compact and slight, with short legs and a long torso; I can't speak for Alan's.

Image by Diana Bella via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.