This blog post is the best essay I’ve found on qigong and how neijia, from a qigong-centric point of view, should merge internal with external. It is really about prana and yoga, but to me that’s a very meaningless distinction. Indeed, that it’s not explicitly about qigong or taijiquan or neijia actually gives it more meaning for these specific contexts. I’ve pointed to it before, but I want to quote it some.

Think back to that first (or recent) practice session when moving into a pose was a mechanical exercise in willpower. Often enough, for me, the first one or two Sun A sequences of each practice feel this way.

But then something happens, though it happens gradually enough that I usually don’t notice it until it’s pretty far along: Instead of formulating the pose in my brain and then manipulating my various body parts into position, I find the pose begins to generate itself without the mechanistic effort of my brain’s control. I don’t mean to suggest that my mind is absent – it’s there and engaged and choosing poses and depth and alignment and the like – but the energy that creates the pose is no longer something applied, but rather something that begins to flow through the pose itself. It’s hard to find the right words for this.

The best way I can think of to describe it is that the energy and the pose aren’t really separated. Don’t get me wrong – it isn’t as though everything turns into energy and lightness and ease. Many yoga poses remain at or beyond the borders of my capabilities. Some are incredibly difficult, requiring all the strength and endurance and flexibility I can muster. But the energy of the pose is internal to it – not external.

Once you’ve noticed the experience of “doing it wrong,” you can feel the difference. I put “doing it wrong” in quotation marks, because, of course, when it comes to yoga, the only “wrong” way is the “not paying attention” way. Anything that happens with full attention isn’t wrong. It may be counterproductive to a particular objective, but it will never be “wrong.” Anyway, once you come to notice the difference, you can start to move into alignment with those patterns of energy. Why would you care? As you align with the energies of your body, your moves become more fluid, your balance stabilizes, you allow prana to guide you more deeply into poses, strengthening and stretching. Once you become familiar with its flow, you can move with it, using it as a counterpoint to your own actions. A dance.

I like how he says it’s hard to put it in words but does such a good job of it. One of his last statements really captures everything concisely for me.

A river is not simply a channel through which water flows – it is the flowing water, itself.

Amazingly good essay. Not really a how-to, but a great description of what yoga or taijiquan form or even push hands or I suppose about anything should feel like. I think that is partly what the taijiquan classics mean when they talk about “no qi” or using “yi” or “shen”, not “qi”. A kind of wuwei or no-mind arrived at or maybe enhanced with this energy work. The internal should merge with the external. It’s impossible to understand until one gets some real, kinesthetic sense of what he’s talking about. He’s not talking about “whole body” or “neutralizing” or leverage. Using logic to wholly reject what he’s talking about will prevent any understanding. That is sort of using the left brain to try to understand (or really rationalize away) what the right brain can get in an instant without words getting in the way, transcending words. That is an example of what the Dao De Jing, Zen koans, and the so-popular partly due to Oprah, Eckart Tolle book mentioned in the post is describing or attempting to help one understand. Tolle talks a lot about uniting internal and external in a much broader sense. I think seangreenfrog is also getting at the spiritual, and that’s also what the taijiquan classics are getting at, in part. That is actually easier to “get” than harnessing “it” into a specific form or external thing, especially one idealistically based on the Dao.