Saturday, May 10, 2008

A totem and a private palace

Okay, I did pretty well. I got most of a paper onto the screen, a few written pages, several more pages of notes, and a good idea of where I'm going -- funny, how I still call it a paper, when it will be created, turned in, and critiqued by my advisor all online. This "paper" may never make it to hardcopy.

I attended a women's qigong, or chigong, class for the first time this morning. Most of my experience with qi comes from tricky use of the letter "q" in Scrabble, but I've been meaning to look into qigong for a while. I went to a massage therapist a few years back who touched my back and said, "What is this great stress?" He seemed genuinely concerned for me, told me the left side of my body was rigid. When I told him that, among other things, I was about to move to LA, he said, "Moving is even as to a house on fire." Did I mention he had an amazing Eastern European accent and enormous hands?

I was talking with a friend tonight about how often unwitting people you encounter can become totems or icons in our personal stories. We endow them with meaning, which can sometimes get in the way of relating to them as real people. I'm embarrassed to say that in my own personal fairy tale, I immediately identified this massage therapist as a rugged, brawny father figure -- like the hunter in Little Red Riding Hood, Hagrid in Harry Potter, or He Man's Man-At-Arms to name a few.

Hagrid wanted me to see a chiropractor, and he wanted me to go to Chinatown and find a qigong practitioner. Pressing on the middle of my back, which, at the time went painfully askew between two vertebrae, he said, "This is more than I can help." I trusted his opinion since he was ready to lose me as a client to other practitioners who might be able to help me more, and, of course, because he reminded me of Hagrid.

I never made it to Chinatown before I moved. Now, I'm back in Chicago, and a friend takes me to this free class mere blocks from my house (and even closer to my old place). While there, I learned about the ovarian palace, the jade pillow, produced a lot of qi, and swallowed saliva full of life force -- all my own, thank you. The practice involved a lot of visualization, but it definitely produced actual heat energy as well. The teacher claims these exercises allow women to "cut off the red dragon," among other things. According to her, after a couple years of practice, you can stop having your period, stop the exercises when you want to bring it on again, and conceive a super-healthy baby. Sounds good, but in the same way reaching enlightenment sounds good. Human bodies and minds can do amazing things, but do I have the discipline and energy to do any of them in this lifetime?

I'm always a bit overwhelmed when I encounter a whole school that people devote their lives to studying. It makes me cognizant of how little time there is to learn. And that makes me skeptical, looking for reasons to cross this new world of study off my list. Since I enjoy believing in things, I do the crossing out in pencil. The marks get erased, and then I'm reading about some new random thing, trying to reconcile it with all the other random things I read. I'll probably go to class again.

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