My qigong practice begins with stirring the soup. Right away I notice the interior dialogue that I’m having. It isn’t just dialogue. It’s lists and to dooz that I remembered I didn’t do. It’s imaginary conversations; even comebacks or responses I wish I had made. It is the stuff of talking with others or to myself. It is worries; upcoming appointments. It’s also me telling myself to focus. ‘Focus here and just feel the connection to the wood floor.’ I will notice that then. Whether I’m wearing shoes or socks or if I’m barefoot. I pay attention to my breath. No special breathing. Just paying attention. This is the idea behind qigong. You try to move away from the talking you do in your head. Unless you’re trying to describe to someone all the thoughts that might come to you, all the ideas and lists and lines of song or poetry or the people you meant to call or email and that you forgot to add salt to the soup. You have to remember because otherwise it will taste flat. The salt will bring it alive. Ah, then you remember, shhhh, just pay attention to your posture, the movement. Then you notice the sweet morning shadows and light.
So it goes with qigong. You try to be in the moment and that does happen. Somewhere along the line you do lose all the threads of your self-talk. I think of qigong practice as a work in progress. I also think of soup the same way.
In the actual doing of qigong I try to be in the moment but the array of thoughts coming to me disproves all the times I worried that I didn’t have a thought in my head. I do. Too many of them right then. I wanted to write about Teagong for the last year. So I need to know what I’m thinking while I’m doing qigong. Teagong is the practice of doing qigong while the tea kettle is heating toward the whistling point. Most often I do this in the morning before work.
Just when you think you can’t let go of some thoughts, when you’re a dog after a bone with this thread or that, you do. That’s what qigong can do to you. That’s good. But I was conflicted with the need to remember my thoughts so that I could share them with you. Qigong is not good when you’re trying to write about all the thoughts that come your way. You forget. You get into the flow. And then you weave forgetting and remembering. Trying to hold onto your thoughts so that you can remember them after you’re done. Not happening. The thoughts don’t stay with me. They float down the river, they evaporate, they morph and move to another address. They are floating in the stream of consciousness. As soon as I try to grab hold of one, my consciousness has jumped onto another log. Who knew my mother’s daughter was really a thought frog at heart? This is a good thing and it is not. But you get the idea about Teagong. It is qigong while tea is on and both you and the tea are steeping.
Teagong thoughts might seem very familiar to those that make soup. They are not the same thoughts, soupish thoughts, but they come and go just like other thoughts you’re having while trying to focus on the here and now. Soup thoughts come when you’re stirring and also while chopping the mire poix. They come when you’re adding the spices you know the recipe calls for and also when you’re adding those that you feel compelled to add because you have an attachment to the spice more than the recipe.
Fresh oregano is wonderful. When you accidentally touch it in the garden you kick up a whole world that was sleeping in the sun. When I add dried oregano to a pot of soup, it’s better than a trip with Jules Verne. If you hold the oregano in the palm of your hand then rub your hands over the pot of soup as if you were trying to start a fire with a stick, you get the Greek islands, the blue Mediterranean waters, summer, Homer, all. Soup thoughts can be like these, ‘If she comes it will be wonderful.’ ‘I haven’t had this many people over in a long time.’ ‘Don’t even know if I invited people properly.’ ‘I was so informal.’ ‘The whole thing was spur of the moment.’ At that time I was cooking up a storm. Prospero in the kitchen. You betcha, stir em good. ‘I don’t even know if anyone will show.’ Went and got a fresh sprig but then I decided not to make that recipe. ‘So far, everything is going into this one soup. It’s Darwin’s recipe for the species. Everything goes in, what survives lands on a taste bud like an island and blossoms into belly good. It is belly good time. Well soon anyway. But now it could use some onion.’ Granulated onion from the Cape.
Try and have a quiet mind while bustling about in the kitchen. Your mind sings through each flash and dash of spice, or shake and take away. Each arc of spicing follows a thought form. This is not the measured tone of adding ingredients. It is spicing for the belly good of the order. Everything swirls through you: thoughts, misgivings, flashes of memory, and the heat of summer coming. The birds add their sounds to the air and falls with the sea salt into the soup. This is genuine, homemade soup. Eight dollars a quart would be a bargain for retail.
Never once thought about my feet while stirring the pot. However, now I know, good shoes make cooking easier on the knees. A good connection to the floor means you feel your body and the awareness of your life energy. Posture counts. Attention to breath counts. But you don’t have to count your breaths. Did you add the salt yet? Yes, with the bird song.
Morning Teagong is much simpler. There is only the kettle whistling and the tea brewing. ‘But did I add the honey already?’ My first qigong exercise in the morning is called ‘stirring the soup.’ I will stir the soup and then taste the tea. Both will be sweet.