In the Ancient Mountains

by Colin Ricketts

Deep in the ancient mountains on the eastern edge of North America, called New England since the arrival of Europeans, is a pretty river valley that has extraordinary harmonious energy (Qi). At a picturesque waterfall on the river, unique for its large collection of “potholes’ worn into the bedrock by the action of this river since the last ice age, the indigenous people once gathered to harvest the abundance of salmon as they returned up stream to spawn. The different tribes of these people had a peace treaty that allowed the fishing grounds to be utilized by everyone without strife. Today the salmon are gone, but local people are still drawn to this particular place, once called Salmon Falls but now called Shelburne Falls, by its wonderful energy. Some come to practice an ancient form of qigong exercise patterned on the observation of wild geese which was first practiced by Taoist monks 1400 years ago in the high desert mountains of western China.

The geese are still here, as in China, as they have been for thousands of years. The wild goose is a bird of longevity and high energy, migrating long distances twice each year. Being one of the heaviest birds know to fly, they not only have extraordinary strength, but possess grace, balance and agility. They also demonstrate what humans would call noble qualities. They are loyal, mating for life, and have been observed stopping to help an injured goose, during their migrations. In their flight patterns, not only have they learned to fly more efficiently by drafting each other in “v” formations, but they also take turns leading the flight, thus sharing the efforts of being the lead goose. When feeding in a flock, certain geese always remain at the edge of the flock as sentinels, not feeding, their heads held high, to watch for danger. And they are ferocious when defending their nest, mates and or goslings.

The roots of Qigong lie in ancient Shamanic practices, when indigenous Asian peoples imitated wild animals in dance. (In fact, the original calligraphy for doctor represented two shamans dancing.) This is similar to the dances of Native Americans. The purpose of this activity was to contact the spirit of the animal in order to take on the perceived strengths of that animal and as a way to find harmony with the natural world, for successful hunting, gathering and even healing. A Shamanic trace was a vehicle for transcending the limits of the everyday human mind, in the search for a connection to a deeper wisdom and the spirit that animates life, This aspect of ancient Qigong is no longer focused upon in the modern schools. Qigong is now viewed more from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective and increasingly from a scientific perspective. The exercises are seen as physical movements that are particularly efficient in toning the body and strengthening and balancing our internal energy, our Qi, which in traditional Chinese medicine is seen as the basis of good health and longevity, and stimulating the immune system.

We all sense that the mind is powerful in determining the quality of our lives-for better or worse. One way to access this power may be to just connect it to the body, as the ancient peoples did. Infusing your Wild Goose Qigong practice with the power of your imagination will yield great results. Feel the nobility of the wild goose as you stretch your neck and extend your ‘wings.” Feel the primal flow of energy within your body as you fly long distances over the sea with your flock, the moon shining overhead. Shake your wings to relax and release tension. As you practice in this manner, you step out of your everyday conditioned mind, You call forth from within you an experience of vigor, strength, nobility, uprightness, and tranquility where you feel in harmony with your natural environment. Cultivating these qualities will carry over into your whole day; you will be stronger in body and mind, more energized and self-confident from your journey with your brother and sister geese.