Gentle thoughts are a cornerstone of Cosmos Qigong. Whether you learn with me, Grandmaster Wong, or another Shaolin Wahnam instructor, you have either been introduced to this concept or have it burned so deeply into your brain that it is second nature. In fact, even if you practice a completely different style of Qigong, you have some version of this in your training. But gentle thoughts do so much more than just evoking warm and fuzzy feelings, used properly, gentle thoughts are a powerful way to guide energy and set intentions which raise your practice (and its benefits) to advanced levels.
In my own classes, I describe a gentle thought as one with the least amount of effort possible. I tell my students to put as much energy as you would put into asking where your left foot is, or where the tip of your nose is. How much effort do you really have to put into locating these things? Not much. Considerably less than say, solving a quadratic equation.
This is extremely important for an art like Qigong that revolves around energy and mind cultivation. Benefits don’t come by thinking hard and tensing your muscles. For Qi to flow optimally, it requires a relaxed body and a relaxed mind. The Qigong and Tajiquan classics speak of using your Yi (意), the Chinese term for intention, to lead your Qi. Where thought goes, energy flows. Sound familiar?
But in the same way that energy doesn’t travel efficiently through a tense body, it also sputters and hiccups through a tense mind. Hence the importance of don’t worry, don’t intellectualize, enjoy your practice, one of the two sets of three golden rules within Shaolin Wahnam. So, while Cosmos Qigong doesn’t necessarily use visualization, it does use a lot of gentle thoughts to guide our energy.
If this all still sounds pretty woo woo, consider this: have you ever tried in vain to remember something, racking your brain with all your might to no avail only to have the answer come to you in the shower or anywhere else where your mind wasn’t on it? Great thinkers such as Albert Einstein and Friedrich Nietzsche were known to allow for periods of unstructured thought in their days so as to let their minds to relax and solve problems with the pressure off, so to speak. When we let our thoughts be gentle, the full power of the energy behind them can flow where it needs to, ultimately guiding us on our journey to health and happiness.
Fear not if you’re naturally intellectual and tend to overthink. Using gentle thoughts in practice is a skill that is practiced and developed like any other. You’ll have good days and less good days where it seems like you overfocus no matter what. This is part of the process. After all, if it was perfect, then you wouldn’t need to practice.