Qigong is one of my main tools of alchemy, of grounding and cultivating my Qi. Yet, my practice only began to blossom when I brought it back outside AND began to train my body and tone and tune with our Earth tools. This is a path I’ve been footing now for over 8 years and the teachings from the Earth grow stronger each season. I have come to integrate my learnings from the East in Qigong and Chinese Medicine with my training grounds in the West, our Wilderness wild lands.
The tools are simple and include barefooting, sticking with staffs, toning with stones, weaving with ropes, sacking and more. These simple tools strengthen, stretch, tone, open and shape my body and spirit into a more powerful temple, conduit to receive Nature’s flow of Life, Wisdom, Mystery.
Last year my dear friend and guide, Mick Dodge also known as Barefoot Sensei introduced the practice of Hammering to me. He had begun sharing some of this hammer training with me a while back, though it wasn’t until this past year, that I picked up the hammer and understood his passion for this talisman. My body responded and my passion ignited. The hammer is made of iron, like the core of the Earth. It teaches me to pull (it’s medicine) and grip deep into the Earth. Mick showed me some basic movement forms to build on and to then take the hammer into the forest to train and receive its alchemy. He said the hammer is a useful tool for releasing the power of the staff.
One day last spring I took my hammer upon my shoulder and footed a path into the forest. Allowing enchantment and awe to guide me, I came upon a circle of cedar trees and some powerful old growth stumps. I began to move with my hammer in some of the forms Mick had shown me, when a beautiful mossy staff – or wand – caught my eye. I picked it up and began to dance. I felt the wand had something to teach me. I danced, allowing the wand to guide and muse movements through my muscles. She showed me several simple katas and I danced and flowed in those movements as the evening golden light dabbled in the green mossy woods.
Then it was time to these katas shown by the wand and bring it to my hammer. I did and at first moved rather clumsily…but then I felt the iron pull of the hammer and of the Earth. I felt the movements shape shift into a similar kata that the wand had shown, but this one now fit for the slinging, ringing and singing of the Hammer. I moved and pulled and breathed and sang with the Hammer. I rang with the Hammer sending out my song while pulling in the Earth song.
One of the special alchemies of the Hammer is it pulls much stronger into Earth. It pulls down while my body also pulls up from Earth. This creates a simultaneous spiral movement we see so much in Nature, and also in Qigong.
My home lineage of Qigong is a system called Zhong Yuan Qigong (中原气功) and one of our most powerful practices is Big Tree 大树功. Trees pull down into the Earth with their roots and also spiral and pull up towards the sky. As humans we can do this too and qigong augments this process. Many forms of both qigong and tai chi incorporate this "wood" element of spiraling down while at the same time feeling our spine elongate and our qi spiral up and out. This strong pulling into our Earth's iron core is part of Hammer's medicine. Its deep pull down creates an equally strong pull and spiral up -- augmenting my body's, my muscles' natural ability to muse from our Earth, draw Her energy and teachings in.
Karen Joy Fletcher, MPH, anthropologist, writer and qigong instructor, loves sharing her passions of qigong, dance and wilderness training with people around the world.
She is a personal student of ZY Qigong Grandmaster Xu Mingtang, has trained with him at Shaolin Monastery in China and traveled with him worldwide. She is also a student of Master Chinese Medicine doctor, Dr. Zhao Fuxue, and serves as his interpreter when in the U.S. Inspired from extensive training with Mick “the Barefoot Sensei” Dodge, she offers qigong and earth-based movement programs, including at retreat centers such as Omega Institute in New York. Karen leads Qigong & Wilderness treks in Western China and has another one coming up in 2016!
Join Karen’s local qigong and Earthgym classes happening in Redmond, Seattle and Tolt (Carnation). She is also offering, Staffs & Hammers of the Wise Wild Women, a 3-hour workshop at the 24th Annual Women of Wisdom Conference on Saturday 2/13 from 9a-12p (Also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/1522981718018935/ ) More info at QiDancing.com.