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Qigong for Transformation

 August 11, 2023

By  Juli Kramer

Qigong for transformation means using the physical and emotional aspects of qigong to come into the present moment. As you refine your skill at being present through the senses, you will also create space to process your emotions and evolve.

James Saper, R.TCM.P., a Radiant Shenti teacher provides the valuable framework for thinking about qigong for transformation shared in this article. He also share his thought in a rich conversation with Juli Kramer, Ph.D. about the topic.

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Consequently, the more you create space, you will begin to feel subtle shifts in how long emotions tie you down. You feel yourself transform into a person not ruled by emotions but rather someone who uses them as a guide to growth.

By connecting with vital qi energy and removing yourself from judgment and attachment, you can realize your potential. Through clarity and focus on the senses, you also release grief and loss and other emotions keeping you stuck.

Qigong for Transformation – Guidance from the Dao De Jing

A helpful guide to tap into the power of qigong for transformation is the Dao De Jing. The Dao De Jing is the original source text for the religion and ideas of Daoism. Chapter 10 poses three questions that help you begin to see the self as whole and in the present moment.

  • Can you embrace your spirit and hold your body as one without separation?
  • Can you gather your qi gently like a baby?
  • Can you clarify your subtle vision and not be jaded?

The chapter ends by advising you to “create and foster, create, and not possess, act without dependence, lead but don’t rule. This is called subtle virtue.”

Other ways to think about the advice from the Dao De Jing

Some other ways to think about what the Dao De Jing is saying are as follows.

  • Can you embrace the mind and the body? Can you integrate them as one?
  • How can you gather your qi but not hold and control it? Can you gather it in gently?
  • What happens when you refine your senses? What happens when you do not turn jaded and do not apply judgment to the information that comes in?

When you refine your senses, you open possibilities for creating, being generative, and living in abundance. You also can use these gifts, your qi, your life force, wisely in a way that doesn’t command and control.

Qigong for Transformation - Refining Your Senses

Breathe Deeply

One of the first steps in using qigong for transformation is refining your sense. Qigong flows start the process of refining the senses and engaging your emotions. In the process, you will create transformations in your body, your channels, yourself, thereby increasing your potential and becoming more of who you ought to be.

Here’s a story from James to help illustrate.

"I was serving as a model for a portrait class. I looked forward to it as an opportunity to meditate. As I sat, I listened to the teacher provide feedback. A common theme emerged. The teacher advised the students to really look and see what sat in front of them, not what they imagined or expected to see. For example, the 'peach' color truly consisted of greens, grays, yellows, etc.

I took this critique as wisdom for transformation. By engaging in your senses, you grasp physical reality instead of imagined expectations. You have so much information coming in from your eyes, ears, skin, nose, etc. And all this information comes in. And then, through expectation, preference, attachments, and ego, you sense what you expect or want to sense, instead of what’s really there.

The process of refining your senses, brings you more into true physical experience. Whether cooking, painting, wood working, singing, and more, you engage with your senses."

Turning your senses inward

Qigong also invites you to apply your sense by turning them inward. You look inward to see yourself more accurately. You also physically look at your hands, drawing the qi to where you focus.

Additionally, qigong movements engage touch and balance and open opportunities to focus intently on these senses. Listening to your breath further refines your sense of hearing. With all the senses, you can refine your focus and discern their different subtle qualities.

Qigong for Transformation Engaging the Senses

Engaging the Emotions

Once you refine the senses, you typically have a response, often in the form of emotions. You will often, but not always, sense a strong emotion. The emotional response emerges as what you want to tease apart. Qigong for transformation helps you clarify and engage these emotions in a helpful, healing way.

In Chinese medicine the emotions are categorized as five emotions (you might see sources mention seven emotions). A single word can mean a complex thing in the Chinese language and culture. Therefore, there’s a full range of emotions, not just five. When you come across these emotions, they more accurately refer to a range of emotions.

For example, the five emotions are anger, joy, worry/overthinking, grief/sadness, and fear. All of them mean a wide range of things.

To illustrate, the idea of anger can range from feeling irritated to full-on rage. Depression on the other end of the anger spectrum can mean having no motivation to do anything or feeling a low-level malaise as you move through your day. The range for the lack of motivation varies.

Extremes do not promote health. You want the range of emotions to balance in the center. You have the opportunity to transform emotions, as well as your whole self. Whether you might experience anxiety, frustration, over excitement, grief, etc. these feelings can transform into something else. You’ve probably noted this process of change in your own life.

So, emotions should come and go.

Qigong for transformation helps you separate your emotions from yourself


The most important concept in this framework is to separate your emotions from yourself. You are not your emotions. Confusing this idea happens often.

People often let their emotions take over their sense of self.

That’s what qigong can help you unravel. The practice of synchronizing breath with movement can help you find yourself among the all the emotional chatter.

To further clarify, you can use an analogy from Chinese medicine to help you unpack the idea of emotional chatter. You always have conversations with yourself, the part that’s talking and the part that’s listening. 

So, now comes the analogy. In Chinese medicine, they use the idea of the imperial court, with the ministers and advisors and the emperor.

  • The chatter, the internal emotional mantras, comes from the ministers. They all offer their opinions.
  • The role of the monarch is to listen and assess the truth, the reality and decide how to act.
  • The part of you that listens emerges as the part to separate out when you use qigong for transformation.

Don’t overthink the process. You don’t have to call up emotions, including thinking, which is an emotion in Chinese medicine.

Don’t let the thinking overtake your senses. Your qigong for transformation practice serves to remove extra distractions, you can better sense, feel, and listen to what’s happening internally. Then you can have an idea of the emotions that already affect you.

Turning down the volume of the chatter

Qigong develops your skill in turning down the volume of the chatter, a useful and important skill. To remain connected with your emotions, after you separate yourself from your emotions, you bridge that space.

Bridging allows you to transform your sense of self. Emotions are opportunities for learning. You will find new ways to relate to your feelings. The hard part is that there’s no trick, no technique. It takes practice. It’s a process that happens in other times and places. 
Bridging your emotions and senses with qigong

The purpose of your qigong practice is to give you space from your emotions so you can refer to the emotions as the monarch, learning from the feelings.

Qigong is a way to reduce the volume of the chatter. It lets you tune in to the monarch, the listener within. The focus turns to interpreting the chatter without feeling swept away by it.

This concept applies to all qigong practices, but the five movements I introduce in the Engaging the Emotions qigong flow focuses specifically on the task of turning down the chatter and opening your ability to discern your emotions.

Qigong for Transformation - Turning Your Senses Inward

In regard to the senses, you gather in information externally and internally. You can see, listen, and feel outside and inside yourself. In qigong for transformation, you set your sights on sensing how things truly are. As you get better at discernment, you will always have a response. That response often comes in the form of thoughts, which often have emotional content.

Sometimes the internal chatter can come through unfiltered and quite strong. The important thing is to engage with the emotions in a non-judgmental way. For instance, you need to allow yourself to hear the voices to make space for transformation. As a result, you will find that the voices, your mood, and your personal identity change and transform.

From the five emotions come the five virtues

The goal in qigong for transformation is to transform the disruptive emotions into the five virtues. For example, Joy often embodies love that is given out or withheld. The virtue joy transforms into is compassion. Compassion doesn’t differentiate.

To further illustrate, anger ranges on a spectrum from rage to feeling depressed. When you bring that aspect of yourselves into alignment, then you can transform. You move from rage to patience, from depression to empowerment.

Continuing with the emotions, grief and sadness transform to gratitude. Sadness and grief occur when you apply value to things.

A piece of paper might not evoke sadness when you lose it, unless it was a special piece of paper, a letter perhaps. When you become too focused on the value of one thing, you overlook the value of other things.

Transforming grief means broadening where you see value. You will still have sadness about certain situations, but as you broaden the scope for what you value, you fill with gratitude and transform your grief.

Additionally, thinking is an interesting emotion. You can overthink, or perhaps you can’t take information in at all. The virtuous state is insight. This transformation happens almost immediately when you create separation from the mental chatter.

Lastly, with fear, it’s usually about your internal, individual survival. Fear manifests at different levels. The response can range from over reaction, over protection. On the other end is too little care for your well-being, engaging in over reckless behavior.

Where you are with your sense of identity is the balanced state of fear. Understanding where you are in relation to everything else transforms the extremes of fear. The context and connection and understanding that connection is part of how you define yourself transforms fear.

Qigong for Transformation – Trust in the Process

You can spend hours looking at the nuances. Don’t get caught up in the details. You don’t need to understand transformation for it to happen. You need to create space for it to occur. It doesn’t require more than you setting the stage for it to occur.

All qigong exercises can support the task of quieting the mind in order to look at process your emotions as separate from who you are as a person.

You can also take advantage of my sequence of three lessons designed to support transformation and review these concepts as part of the process. You can access the first lesson Refining the Senses by clicking on the image  below or clicking here.

Qigong Refining the Senses

You can also dive deeper and join James and Juli for a conversation about qigong and transformation.

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Juli Kramer

Dr. Juli Kramer is a certified qigong instructor. She also holds a diploma in Chinese Medicine Nutritional Therapy and multiple certificates in Chinese medicine. As a qigong and meditation teacher, Dr. Kramer understands the important role movement and meditation have on developing a healthy body and mind. Juli also has a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Counseling Psychology.

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