I wondered this morning about noticing silence. It was hard to see at 6:30 am. At this time of year typically there’s enough light for me to see the outline of the woods or the houses nearby. Instead, the sky was heavy with solid gray cover. Dawn was having a hard time penetrating it. Snow. Living for years in Michigan I’ve seen these thick clouds many times before. Snow had already fallen; so far it wasn’t deep, only four inches of slippery powder on the streets and pathways.
The second thing I noticed was the quiet. I couldn’t hear the constant hum of cars in the background of my semi-urban area, no airplanes flying overhead, or neighbor dogs barking. It was all muffled by the sky blanket. The silence was glorious. I’m sensitive to city noise as I am to smells yet this morning I was able to hear the soft landing of snow on the ground and the distant echo of the creek running strong.
In the past few days people have remarked to me that January gave them a reason to stay at home and rest. Whether they are snowed in or COVID unexpectedly struck, they find themselves forced to stay put.
Listening to the Calm
January is a time to listen to the calm. Our minds and bodies encourage us one way or another to pay attention. Now finally, our spirit nature is able to come up to the surface and take a deep breath. You can almost feel your shoulders relax as the big ahhh sound emerges from deep within.
It’s interesting how we recognize that part of ourselves – our inner wisdom – when it yields to the seasonal transitions of nature. Soon we will notice the first edges of spring penetrating the cold earth. For now, though, the seeds we planted remain in the dark, frozen soil. Waiting. The physical rest we seek is exactly what’s needed to gather our energy for the threshold of new beginnings.
How do we gather this important energy?
We use our senses and our imagination to enter a place of inner stillness to build an awareness of life force energy. This energy has many names including Qi, Prana, Reiki, Nwyfre, or Spirit. I recently studied with Robert Peng, a world-renowned qigong master and healer. (I highly recommend him if you are interested in exploring your energy.) Like other qigong masters, he emphasizes harnessing Qi around us and connecting it to our own energy.
In this time of quiet and stillness, we have an opportunity to observe what is happening in the moment. Here is one abbreviated interpretation I offer from my own qigong practice to help gather healing energy. Take your time with this exercise.
Stand and plant your feet on the floor. Soften the gaze of your eyes.
Imagine, then feel, your body’s connection to the earth and to the sky.
Relax your neck and shoulders, soften your knees.
Follow the breath as it enters your nostrils and fills your chest and abdomen. Rest.
Now, begin to rhythmically and lightly bounce up and down. Remember to relax.
Allow your arms to move by themselves with your body’s flow.
Notice where your body is releasing its tension and stress.
Remember to breath.
With each exhale use your voice to make a sound to express the feeling of letting go.
Keep bouncing softly, move gently.
Feel the vibration of the sound in your mouth, your lips, your throat.
Now, as you continue to gently bounce shake your hands – stir the Qi – in front of you, to your sides, behind, and above you. Repeat.
When you are ready, stand still with your arms relaxed at your side.
Be aware of the tingling sensation moving through your arms, hands, and fingers.
Now, with inward facing hands begin to gently swing your arms from the relaxed position up over your head and shoulders, and down again.
Let your inner child swing your arms happily bending your knees as you gather energy from below.
Then, in a fluid movement softly straighten your knees lifting your arms overhead.
Imagine that you are scooping up the energy that you stirred when you were bouncing, slowly bring it up to your crown, and let this energy wash over you.
Do this a number of times.
If your eyes are closed imagine scooping up the energy from your happy place, up over your head and down your body.
Rest a moment.
When you are ready, lift and hold your arms above your head. Pause. Imagine energy flowing into your body from above and from below.
With palms flat facing toward the earth and slightly turned toward your body, slowly move your hands down pausing at your forehead, at your heart, and finally your core.
Sense the radiating warmth from your hands. Let yourself feel the warmth.
Allow this healing energy to penetrate your being.
Lift and circulate the energy again, bathing in healing life force.
When you are ready, end with hands together in front of your heart space. Smile.
Lower your hands to your core. Breathe.
There are many traditions that explore the presence of life force. All these meditative practices help us experience the existence of healing energy. It is around us and in us. The awareness of life force energy helps us appreciate that we are in the universe, and the universe is in us. Each of us are a part of the whole.
In a real way we are connected to the seeds in the dark, cold earth as they rest in silence. We too are intentionally gathering our energy for the time when we will be asked to sprout into the next stage of growth.