The Big Secret To Sensing Your Qi Energy

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If you can’t sense your qi, then you’re just spinning your tires in the mud.

The qi (氣, or energy) is everything in qigong and tai chi. It’s the main ingredient.

If you want to go somewhere with your qigong and tai chi, if you want to stop spinning your tires, then you absolutely need to learn how to sense your qi.

It’s not your fault. You probably weren’t taught the big secret to sensing qi.

That will change by the end of this article. I’ll teach you the secret, which means no more excuses for you!

Even beginners can learn to sense their qi. It doesn’t take years of practice. It just takes correct instruction, and correct practice.

Qi and Traditional Chinese Medicine

The concept of qi comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is the oldest continuous medical system in the history of humanity.

Acupuncture, Chinese herbalism, Chinese massage (tui na), and Qigong are all branches of Traditional Chinese medicine.

All of them use the same concept of qi, or vital energy.

I went to acupuncture college because I wanted to understand the concept of qi on a deeper level. And I succeeded.

But here’s the thing: You don’t need to understand qi in order to sense it.

In fact, an intellectual understanding of qi might just make it harder to sense.

Science Says You Have a 6th Sense

What if I told you that — according to science — you have a sixth sense?

What if I told you that you have a seventh? And an eighth?

You’d probably call me crazy.

If you think that you’ve only got 5 senses, then I’m sorry to say that you’re the crazy one, my friend.

The theory of the 5 senses actually dates back to Aristotle (b. 384 BC). So yeah, it’s a wee bit outdated.

It turns out humans might have as many as 20 senses. Whether we have 8 senses or 20 depends on which scientist you ask.

The only thing agreed upon by the research is that there are definitely more than 5 senses.

And we already knew this, right?

For years, I’ve been asking my students to prove this to themselves as follows:

An Exercise To Prove That You Have a 6th Sense

  1. Sit or stand comfortably.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Keeping your eyes closed, touch your nose with the pinky of your left hand.

Which of the 5 traditional senses did you use to touch your nose?

It’s fun to watch skeptics start crossing things off the list:

“Sight? Nope. My eyes were closed. Hearing? Nope. I can’t hear my pinky! Smell? Nope. Taste? Nope. Touch! Aha! That’s it! Wait, no, I didn’t touch anything until the end.”

Another way to analyze this is to figure out which organ you used to touch your nose.

The answer is that you used a system, not an organ. That system is call the vestibular system. This is what allows you to not only touch your nose with your eyes closed, but balance on one leg.

Congratulations. You now have at least 6 senses!

Change Your Paradigm

A deeper discussion of the human sensory system is above my pay grade.

The takeaway lesson is this: You only thought that you had 5 senses.

Your entire life, you’ve had more than that, but your thoughts got in the way.

If you still believe that you only have 5 senses, if you still operate from that paradigm, then subconsciously, it is impossible for you to feel qi.

Once you change your paradigm, once you accept that there are more than 5 senses — then it is much easier to sense the qi.

The Zen Mind Is The Key

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A central theme of my teaching is the importance of quieting the mind and Entering Zen.

Entering Zen is an ancient term to describe the process of going into a gentle, meditative state. We call that state the Zen Mind.

The Zen Mind can be achieved sitting or standing. With qigong and tai chi, it’s most often done standing.

If you’d like to experience a simple version of this state, then close your office door, turn off your phone, and follow this free 4-minute meditation right now:

The opposite of the Zen Mind is the Monkey Mind. You’re familiar with this state because you live it.

The Monkey Mind is the constant stream of thoughts in your head, the radio station that you can’t seem to turn off.

If you are trying to sense your qi, but subconsciously you’re wondering what sense you should use — that’s the Monkey Mind.

Or, if you are trying to sense your qi, but you’re second-guessing what you feel — that’s also the Monkey Mind.

Change your paradigm. Let go of the idea of the 5 senses. Let go of thoughts.

How I First “Heard” My Qi

I was able to sense my qi long before I could explain how I was doing it.

I was able to sense my energy was because I was in a Zen state of mind.

In that state there is no intellectual thought. The idea of the five senses dissolves.

I knew what I was sensing the qi, but I didn’t understand the mechanism.

Some people think that if you can’t explain the mechanism, then it’s not scientific.

That’s simply not true, even in Western Medicine. For example, we used aspirin for nearly 100 years before we understood the mechanism.

In other words we knew that aspirin worked even though we didn’t know how.

I was the same with my qi. I knew I could feel it, but I didn’t know how.

Maybe it’s because I was raised a classical violinist, but for years I actually swore that I could “hear” my qi.

Other people told me they could see it. That wasn’t my experience. Even after all these years, I still don’t “see” energy.

Others said they felt a tingling sensation in the hands and body. I did feel that.

But I also heard something, a vibration, or a sound. And yet, it wasn’t in my ears.

Hearing With Your Fingers

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When I was in acupuncture college, I had a similar experience while learning what is known as Chinese Pulse Diagnosis.

With Chinese Pulse Diagnosis, you learn to sense dozens of different pulse qualities. If you get good at it, then you can be amazingly accurate at diagnosing patients. (We joke that my wife is a human MRI because she is so good at this kind of diagnosis.)

Once you get the hang of Chinese Pulse Diagnosis, you realize that you’re not just using your fingers. There are other senses involved, no question.

For me, I always felt like I was “listening” to the pulses.

But how can you listen with your fingers?

Words Suck

Students are always asking me what qi feels like.

This is a difficult question to answer, mainly because everyone uses different words to describe their own sensations.

If we stick with the paradigm of the 5 senses, then we’re stuck with only 5 words: see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.

The words people use to describe qi are almost always connected to the five traditional senses.

Some students describe feeling a tingling or a buzzing in the hands.

Some describe seeing energy moving through the body.

Others, like me, talk about hearing the energy.

Who is right?

I believe that people describe sensations of qi using words that relate to their dominant sense organs — usually sight, hearing, or touch.

In the end, however, these are just words. And words suck because they encourage the Monkey Mind.

In the Zen tradition, this is the “finger pointing at the moon”. Words are the finger. They point to the moon.

Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all the heavenly glory. (Yes, I just quoted Bruce Lee from Enter the Dragon.)

How to Sense Qi

So what’s the big secret then?

My advice to students who want to sense the qi is simple: Learn to quiet your mind to the point where words are no longer necessary.

In the Zen Mind, we don’t need words like “sight” and “hearing”.

From that deep meditative state, we can just sense the energy directly — without any need for a description.

Resist the temptation to label it. Just feel it. Allow it.

However — a meditative state is not enough. You will also need some skill in qigong or tai chi.

This is why people who practice sitting meditation don’t always feel qi. They need to learn some qigong or tai chi.

On the other hand, and just doing chi gong or tai chi movements is not enough either.  Real qigong and tai chi must be combined with a meditative mind.

A Guaranteed Way To Sense Your Qi

The view from the practice hall at our mountain retreat in Costa Rica

The view from the practice hall at our mountain retreat in Costa Rica

If you’ve struggled to sense your qi, if you want a guaranteed method for finally sensing it, then follow these steps:

A Guaranteed Method for Sensing Qi

  1. Learn to quiet the mind.
  2. Learn some good qigong.
  3. Go to a mountain retreat.
  4. Practice there daily for a week.

I’m half joking. Of course, you can learn to feel the qi without the mountain. But if you’ve been trying for years to sense the energy, and you’re still unsure — then you might need the mountain.

I say this because of my experience teaching a mountain retreat in Costa Rica every year. I’ve had students attend the retreat who were blown away by their ability to sense the qi up on the mountain.

Even people who had felt qi before suddenly felt it in a new way on the mountain.

Why? Because the amazingly beautiful mountain not only helps to quiet the mind, but also has lots more energy to play with. The feng shui, the energy of the environment is better on the mountain.

If you can’t make it to Costa Rica, and you want to feel the qi, then  do yourself a favor and take one of my online workshops. My intro workshop will teach you a specific method for not only quieting the mind, but also getting the energy flowing.

When I first started teaching qigong 10 years ago, I had a funny slogan on my brochures: “No Qi, No Fee”.

It was meant to be funny. But I chose it because I kept meeting people who were struggling to feel the qi.

After taking my workshop, they were finally able to sense their qi. For some of them, it was the end of a years-long quest.

What is your experience with sensing the qi? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 

Mindfully yours,
Sifu Anthony

I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world to use qigong for their own stubborn health issues. I teach online courses, and also lead in-person retreats and workshops.

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27 Responses to The Big Secret To Sensing Your Qi Energy

  1. Joyri May 18, 2016 at 11:44 am #

    When I do qi gong or meditation I kind of imagine a flow. I dont feel or hear or anything. Is that counted as qi?

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais May 18, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

      Hi Joyri. Your experience is common. Unfortunately, it’s not the same as sensing qi. What you’re describing sounds like the Monkey Mind. Imagining the flow of qi is not the same as feeling it.

      I’ll tell you this: when I feel qi, it is crystal clear. There is on doubt that I’m feeling energy, and there is no need for imagination.

      • Joel Malard May 18, 2016 at 3:24 pm #

        Does that mean then that people who imagine that they are drawing energy into themselves are essentially feeding their monkey mind?

        • Sifu Anthony Korahais May 18, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

          The words are tricky, Joel. Visualization is important in qigong, but the trick is to do it without the Monkey Mind. It’s possible to visualize from the Zen Mind, but it’s not easy to describe in words.

      • Joyri July 13, 2016 at 11:45 am #

        Hi Sifu Anthony. I have started to listen to your zen mind audio. But I kind of feel numb whenever I relax and try to quieten the mind. Will I ever be able to feel qi?
        And another thing, is it possible for me to feel stagnation of qi even though I can’t actually feel qi? Sometimes when Iwake up, my body feels as though everything has stopped and Ifeel heavy but if I do sun salutations couple of times (its yoga) I feel lighter
        Does this have anything to do with qi or is it some physical problem?
        The thing is, ever since I knew about qi, I have become quite obsessed about it and I would like nothing better than to be able to feel it.

        • Sifu Anthony Korahais July 13, 2016 at 12:16 pm #

          Hi Joyri. Yes, I think anyone can feel the qi with proper practice and proper instruction.

          Grab the free Fatigue course while it’s available. https://flowingzen.mykajabi.com/store/CNe4WWGo

          I think that might work better for you.

          There’s a saying in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) — where there is pain, there is stagnation.

          So yes, if you feel pain, that’s a stagnation of blood and qi. The same can be true of that heaviness that you feel.

  2. Martin May 18, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

    Thank you, I really enjoyed the article.
    To me the sensation of Qi is mostly a profound body sensation. When pushing mountains I often feel like a huge kind of “waterfront” is passing through me. I think I know what you could mean by hearing Qi, since when I’m in a state of “high vibration” or increased vital energy I have an intense fizzeling sizzeling in my ears, a really high note, kind of like taking a musical note and going higher and higher. Visually it’s also connected to that, sometimes differenct fields of very subtle colours opening up in the middle of my visual field, like a purple grid or a greenish sparkle
    When overtraining I have the sensation of it “pouring and pressing” out of my forehead very like some kind of fever.

    Greetings and Gratitude

  3. Joel Malard May 18, 2016 at 3:26 pm #

    What does it feel to breathe? Might it be a useful analogy?

  4. Dariusz May 19, 2016 at 4:21 pm #

    Hi Sifu. I am doing Shaolin 8 treasures qi gong that i been thought by a Buddhist monk but never felt anything You mentioned in this article. I think it might be connected to what You called “monkey mind” – I have a problem with focusing my mind…

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais May 19, 2016 at 5:51 pm #

      Hi Darius. Honestly, just take my workshop this Saturday. This Saturday’s theme is perfect for you (Calming the Mind and Healing the Body). Once you learn the secrets that I teach, you can apply them to your Shaolin 8 Treasures as well. Details are here: http://flowingzen.com/onlineworkshop

      • Dariusz May 20, 2016 at 2:29 am #

        Great that it comes so quick :}
        I’ll try to join in for tomorrow than. Hopefully I will be out of work at that time.
        Thank You Sifu. You know what time will it be in UK when you’re online class will start?

        • Sifu Anthony Korahais May 20, 2016 at 8:50 am #

          Florida is UTC -4, and the UK is UTC +1, so it’s a 5 hour difference. I believe it will start at 5pm your time. It’s okay to come in a bit late, and you’ll have lifetime access to the replay as well.

  5. monica May 23, 2016 at 9:18 am #

    Great article!!

  6. mikah257 May 28, 2016 at 1:22 pm #

    I used to think that sensing energy might just be metaphorical. Then, I felt it myself, unequivocally. It was both a physical ‘touch’ sensation and a sense of inner seeing. I have always felt/seen energy flowing in patterns, I just didn’t recognize it. Whether it’s the same thing as qi is something I am trying to understand.

  7. Shannon May 31, 2016 at 7:46 pm #

    I can sense my Qi is growing. I can feel it pulsating through my body and see it when I’m practicing my Qigong and Tai Chi.

  8. Jordan June 3, 2016 at 6:20 pm #

    I have heard that emp from cell phones, wifi and other electronic devices greatly interfere with chi and our abilities to work with it. This could also explain why a mountain retreat far away from these things would make an excellent training ground.

  9. Ikram Maududi June 12, 2016 at 7:07 pm #

    i can even sense energy changes in my sparring partner during wing chun practice yesterday with my eyes closed, i don’t know why, but i can feel the energy changes in the air
    And just now i can feel energy just moving around around my sore muscle when i follow your audio tutorial??
    Is that normal for starters in sensing energy??

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais June 12, 2016 at 7:11 pm #

      Good for you, Ikram. I would say that it’s “normal” in the sense that it’s natural, but no, it’s not common for beginners to be so sensitive. Usually it takes several years of practice.

  10. Steve June 15, 2016 at 1:22 am #

    I can feel qi in my hands as tingling and at other times it feels like 2 magnets repelling each other but I am unsatisfied as I know that qi flows in the body but I cannot feel anywhere except in my hands after doing various qigong methods 2-4 times a day for the past 10 years and 42 years of daily Transcendental Meditation.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais June 15, 2016 at 7:52 am #

      Steve, it sounds like you’re already sensing the qi. But it also sounds like a case of “seek it and you will not find it”. There’s such thing as trying to hard, especially with the soft arts of qigong and tai chi. Trying a different style of qigong may also help. Of course, I recommend mine, but whatever suits you.

      • Steve June 15, 2016 at 11:31 am #

        Your comments are much appreciated Sifu but I have tried about 30 different qigong methods since first learning the 8 Brocades in the early 1980’s. And I use a medical clairvoyant to help me find the ones that are most powerful for me. I currently started to work with a qigong therapist who is also clairvoyant and Rx certain qigong methods as remedies so this might perhaps remove whatever blocks are going. I have also done the qigong method, Shaolin Qigong from Marcus Santer in the past. Please let me know what your qigong method is as I do believe learning via online is the wave of the future to promote qigong in a much bigger way.
        Steve

        • Sifu Anthony Korahais June 15, 2016 at 11:55 am #

          Steve, 30 different methods is a lot! What’s the problem actually? You just can’t feel qi as well as you would like?

          FYI, Marcus is an old friend of mine. My method is similar to his, but still different enough that it might be worth trying. There will be some new online options coming soon.

    • Juls June 22, 2016 at 7:41 am #

      Hi Steve,
      Sit under a tree or stand whichever suits.
      Open yourself to the idea of communicating with that tree.
      That’s all think of communicating with that tree.

      A positive response will soon quiet the mind.
      Any old physical injuries will have a healing sensation.
      This is healing tree chi.

  11. Perno February 1, 2017 at 4:44 am #

    Here my approach.

    1. Stand/ sit in a desired position
    2.stretch the spine and in Chigong positions learn to stretch all joints in the intended direction of movement.
    2.1 acompany this later on mentaly to increase the stretch and give the qi a personality that makes it able to put intention in the energy.
    3. Relax the bodyweight, all feelings and thoughts into the stretch down to the ground along the stretched structure. As if the feelings and thoughts could be subject to gravity.
    (the muscles hang around a stretched structure which is your joints, spine)

    Additionally,
    Feeling the qi is breath independent, so don’t make yourself depended on it.
    You can start to practice this by doing the steps above but focusing on your hands to create a ball. Later also here, don’t depend on it and expand your mental space into your body and around it. The more space you can occupie mentaly the stronger the energy you can experience is.
    Finaly, release all energy after practicing. Keeping in to much qi deteriorates the physical body if it is not trained properly. To increase the amount of qi one can safely hold, learn how to encourage wholebody tendon, fascia, lingaments growth additionally. One example would be Chigong under weights, where one focuses on floating the weight by making it subject to the qi.

  12. Alexander April 4, 2017 at 6:30 pm #

    Excuse me Sifu, but i would just like to know if qi can be used to increase striking power, or battle fatigue, as i do know it gradually heals, but i would like to know more. I have been doing martial arts for 8 years, and I’ve been looking for ways to use qi in a wider variety than just the typical healing.

    Sincerely,
    Alexander

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