One of the greatest privileges to working in the wilderness is to be free from all the distractions that bombard our sensory input systems in the “front-country”. The front- country’s distractions are full of cars, signs, ads, songs, people, stores, food, houses, buildings, technology, entertainment, appointments, roads…you get the idea. While on the other hand, the back-country (wilderness, the field) is full of…sky, weather, trees, plants, animals, bugs, live earth, and other things that we haven’t put the human-manufactured stamp on. The front-country is ripe with all the stimulation that implies human constructs, control, and expectations. While the back-country provides liberation from these constructs and allows you to just be, inviting you to get closer to who you truly are.
We can get closer to who we truly and literally are in the wilderness because the bombarding distractions of the front-country dissolve away from the body’s senses, for they are no longer busy trying to keep up with the millions of bits of stimulation that pegs you in the front country. You can allow your nose to get familiar with the smell of rain and heat, your eyes are able to spend time witnessing the countless rocks connected on the earth that you step on as you trek through a hike, and you have more time to actually feel into your physical self in its environment. Overall, you simply have more room to focus and feel your own self, your own energy, making it a perfect place to practice “qigong”.
Qigong literally translates to “cultivation/skill of life force” and comes from China’s most ancient healing sciences, dating back to over 10,000 years ago. Qigong is the basis of all Chinese medicine and martial arts. I like to think of it as energetic medicine. It is especially practical to do in the field to facilitate the healing/therapeutic process, for it allows us to look into the physical translation of our emotions and thoughts into the reality of the energetics in our bodies. The fact is, we are all energy beings, in a magnetic, electric, quantum way. Whether its thoughts, feelings, bodily systems, etc., it’s all integrative, pure, free energy that comprises the totality of our beings. Although people tend to forget this…for as I mentioned above, we can become too disconnected from the body in attempts to cope with the bombarding stimulation of the front-country.
Fortunately, you can still practice qigong no matter where you’re at. If you want to try it out for yourself, here is a brief and simple qigong exercise outlined for you that I like to facilitate in the field, known as “jigam”. Jigam helps relax and calm the mind, allowing you to be present and connect to your physical body. Each person notices different sensations with the exercise, which is normal because each of our lives and expressions are unique.
The Jigam Exercise
- Begin by rapidly rubbing your hands together, in front of your chest, with enough pressure to generate heat. Do this for about 15 seconds.
- Stop rubbing your hands together. Gently separate your hands with the palms facing each other, keeping them in front of your chest and a few inches apart, as if you are holding a ball.
- Notice any tingling, vibration, heat, sensation, magnetism, or even tension you might feel in between your hands. This is energy.
- Pulse your hands further apart (no wider than your shoulders) and then closer together (yet don’t let the palms ever touch), while moving very, very slowly. Pause, then gently move around in the areas wherever you feel notable sensation.
- You can also make small circles going away from you, and then small circles towards you with the palms still facing one another. Imagine bike pedals with your hands so that way they are at slightly opposing sides of the circle.
- Another option is to flip the palms (still facing each other) so they are parallel with the ground, with one palm hovering just a few inches above the bottom. Then make small clockwise and counter clockwise circles (keep imagining bike pedals).
- Spend a few minutes playing around with these different hand motion techniques, all as a form of meditation to ground into the present moment and the physical sensations of your energy. Let it be a process of letting go of your mind and integrating into your body. Allow yourself to relax and release into the experience without force.
May you enjoy the healing effects of directing your senses towards the tangible, subtle sensations to our human experience. Whether you are walking the paved streets of our cities, or wandering the remote wilderness, or practicing qigong, you always have the chance to notice it because it is always with you.