The Skeptic’s Guide to Feeling the Qi

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

“Look, the qi doesn’t have to be so mysterious,” I said.

I was catching up with an old friend over coffee. He was having trouble understanding the core ingredient of my work — the qi.

“Anyone can learn to feel it,” I continued.

“Even me?” he said, laughing.

“Hey, if I can do it, anyone can,” I said.

“That’s true. I remember back when you were quite the skeptic about this stuff!”

It was good to hear someone acknowledge this fact, someone who has watched me change over the years.

These days, people often assume I was never skeptical about the qi, that I believed in it from the beginning.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

My Introduction to Qi

My introduction to the ancient concept of qi (or life energy) happened in 1994.

I had the opportunity to study with a high-ranking Japanese karate master named Teuro Chinen.

Sensei Chinen taught us a traditional kata (a series of karate moves) called Sanchin Kata.

I picked up the moves and the breathing easily. But he kept talking about using something called the ki.

I had no clue what he was talking about.

I later learned that ki is the Japanese word for qi. In fact, the concept of qi was imported to Japan (or rather Okinawa) from ancient China.

Here’s an old (and terrible) image of me practicing Sanchin Kata, c. 1995.

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I now understand that Sanchin Kata is actually a form of qi cultivation (or qigong). But back then I didn’t really understand it.

And nothing annoys me more than not understanding something.

My Scientific Study

Ever since learning from Sensei Chinen, I’ve been curious about the whole qi thing.

He sparked something in me, and I grew determined to understand the concept.

So I began an investigation.

And not just any investigation, but a scientific one.

Some people think that science and arts like qigong and tai chi are mutually exclusive.

Is that true?

What does it mean mean to be scientific?

Webster’s defines the scientific method as follows:

….the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.

In other words, to be scientific means that you study the world through experimentation and observation.

That’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the last 22 years.

My Qi Hypothesis

My friend in the coffee shop remembered my original hypothesis.

My original hypothesis from 22 years ago can be summed up as follows:

“I think qi is probably bullshit.”

I’m not joking. That’s what got me started on this journey.

I was a skeptic, and I was out to bust the myth of qi.

Fast forward 22 years, and I’ve dedicated my life to teaching what I once thought was bullshit.

Karma is interesting, isn’t it?

My Data-Driven Conclusion

If we use Webster’s definition of the scientific method from above, then I started with this:

Problem: I don’t understand the phenomenon of qi.

Hypothesis: I think qi is probably bullshit.

This is where most people stop.

In the 21st century, we are used to having other people (i.e. researchers and scientists) prove things for us.

The concept of running an experiment for and on yourself is downright foreign.

Somehow, at the tender age of 22, I knew that I would need to run my own experiment if I was going to get to the bottom of this qi thing.

Running the Experiment

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After doing some research, I decided that the best way to run an experiment was to practice the art of qigong.

I started reading books. Then I started looking for teachers. And I eventually found myself wandering around S.E. Asia.

Needless to say, I’ve collected quite a bit of data in 22 years.

Continuing with Webster’s definition above, we arrive at the following:

Data:

  1. 10,000+ hours of personal qigong practice.
  2. 1500+ hours of acupuncture training (which also uses the qi).
  3. 5000+ hours of teaching.

After collecting a ton of data, I came to the following conclusion.

Conclusion: My hypothesis was incorrect. The qi is not bullshit.

Why Scientists Can’t Measure the Qi (Yet)

Let’s go back to the coffee shop conversation.

“Why can’t scientists measure the qi?” my friend asked.

He wasn’t being rude. I consider this a fair question from both friends and students.

“I’ve thought about this a lot,” I said. “Before I answer, I need to ask you a question. Are you aware that science doesn’t yet fully understand the human sensory system?

“I read your article on the subject. Does that count?”

The article he was referring to was this one: The Big Secret to Sensing Your Qi.

You can read that article later, but here’s the most important part:

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.

Understanding this information is critical.

Once you accept this information, then you must also accept that your way of viewing the world might need to change.

In other words, once you realize that humans have more than 5 senses, you can suddenly view the concept of qi with new eyes.

(Ha! See what I did there?)

A High-Tech Device for Measuring Qi?

We’ve established that science still doesn’t fully understand the human sensory system. Heck, scientists don’t even know how many senses we have!

With that in mind, here’s the answer to my friend’s question about why science can’t measure the qi:

“What if the only device currently capable of measuring a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon like qi is a human being?”

In other words, what if researchers can’t find the qi because they are looking for it with the wrong equipment?

The Missing Ingredient

The equipment I’m referring to, of course, is the human sensory system.

But it’s more than that. You need more than just your senses.

Or rather, you need more than just your 5 senses.

There is a key ingredient that is often overlooked by skeptics.

I’m referring to what is called The Zen Mind.

The Zen Mind is simply a different state of consciousness than our everyday, normal consciousness.

(You can experience a taste of the Zen Mind with the free audio found in this blog post here.)

When you are in a meditative state, when you are in The Zen Mind, then you perceive things differently.

The lesson here is that you need meditative skill in order to truly run the qi experiment on yourself.

You need to be in The Zen Mind to feel the qi.

Why I Can’t Take Skeptics Seriously

The first question I ask hardcore qi skeptics is this: “How many hours have you meditated?”

A big problem with skepticism is that it is purely intellectual.

Skepticism happens in the frontal cortex of the brain.

But meditation involves other parts of the brain.

In other words, you can’t be skeptical and also be meditating.

It’s like trying to write poetry from the analytical part of the brain. It’s possible, but the result is some very bad poetry.

A skeptic who refuses to explore outside ofthe frontal cortex will never understand meditation.

And someone who doesn’t understand meditation will never understand qi.

Discovering the Qi

Recently, I’ve been writing about the 12 Dimensions of Qi Mastery.

I have plans to write in depth about all 12 dimensions (which are just ways of cultivating the qi).

What you may not yet realize is that this entire article is actually about the 1st Dimension — Discovering the Qi.

Discovering the Qi is a lifelong journey.

But beginners don’t need 20 years, or even 1 year to feel the qi.

They just need proper instruction, and proper practice.

Some people might look at the 12 Dimensions and wonder if it’s really possible to direct the qi to various parts of the body.

It’s possible — but not if you skip the 1st Dimension.

And that’s what many skeptics do, unfortunately.

If you use the right equipment, if you use some of the hidden human senses, and if you use them in a deep meditative state — then you can feel the qi.

I’ve taught thousands of students to do this.

Many of them had been practicing qigong or tai chi for years prior to learning from me.

After learning from me for a few hours, they were able to feel the qi better than ever.

Why?

Because I taught them how to discover the qi.

Summing Up

I can sum up this article in 4 sentences:

  1. The human body may be the only thing capable of measuring the qi.
  2. To measure the qi with the human body, you need meditative skill.
  3. To gain meditative skill, you need proper instruction and proper practice.
  4. Go practice.

What about you? Can you feel the qi? What do you feel? Let me know 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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23 Responses to The Skeptic’s Guide to Feeling the Qi

  1. Anne Young July 12, 2016 at 8:22 pm #

    Sifu, in one of your guided meditations on Flowing Zen Online Academy, you remind us to try to remember how it was before we could feel qi, however long it had been. In another one, you suggest ‘listening’ for the qi. Once I started to feel the qi, and kept practicing, it began to really feel multi-sensory. Great blog! Thanks.

  2. spwheat July 13, 2016 at 8:05 am #

    I could feel the Qi before learning the movement you shared on gathering Qi on the school site. With that added movement to the end of my morning routine I not only feel my Qi, but I can actually feel it moving through my body during the exercise. What started as just tingles has grown into vibrations with tingling sensation throughout my body. As I do the downward motion Qi seems to exit through my feet. It has improved my plantar fasciitis greatly. I practice faithfully! I can also see my Qi and it seems to be growing. I have 2 routines daily, morning has more strength building and evening has more stress relieving exercises. I have learned much from your articles and freebies you have shared with us. I have a child with Autism and found an article on Qigong massage. I may have to do more research on this to help my child heal her blockages. Thank you for sharing your life learning with us! You are amazing!

    • Anne Young July 13, 2016 at 8:34 am #

      “Thank you for sharing your life learning with us! You are amazing!”
      I SECOND THAT EMOTION!

  3. fantheman1@gmail.com July 13, 2016 at 8:48 am #

    Feeling pins and needles in your hands, shoulders, in your lower dantien, or feeling heat on your face are how I feel chi.
    I have studied 3 different styles of qigong,
    Spring forest, shaolin 18 lohan hands, five animal frolics, and the style I found with the strongest chi feeling was spring forest by far. Why is it that qigong where you use visualisation appears to produce a far stronger chi feeling. When I started 18 lohan hands I was told how powerful lifting the sky was. However i found that any one of the spring forest exercises was much more powerful and created a far stronger feeling of chi. Has anyone out there had a similar experience.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais July 13, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

      Hi “fantheman”. I didn’t catch your name?

      First of all, the 18 Luohans is not a style of qigong. It’s just a qigong set, which can be used by different styles. Same thing for Five Animal Frolics.

      If Spring Forest Qigong works for you, great! I have a lot of respect for Master Lin, and I have learned some myself.

      However, I’ve had dozens of people tell me that they tried Spring Forest Qigong, and prefer what I teach. They said almost exactly what you said — that they were able to feel the qi more with my method of qigong.

      To each their own. The great thing about the 21st century is that we can try all these different styles and see what works for us! It wasn’t so long ago that I had to travel to Asia to learn different styles!

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

      Sorry, I’m actually on a plane right now, “fantheman”. I forgot to add that there is a lot more to feeling the qi than pins and needles or heat on the face. Those are all good signs, but that’s the beginning, not the end of the journey.

  4. Vera July 13, 2016 at 2:11 pm #

    Good words! I was a big skeptic and thought that people who practice these exercises are crazy. But life taught me otherwise. Chronic pain, stiff muscles ,no release. Felt heat in the beginning, soothing, and relaxing. My hands were actually burning while doing taichi. Then one day I felt an electric current running diagonal inside the body. That ‘s what master called Qi . Then I felt the current on the bottom of my feet every time I stepped back doing the ‘repulse monkey’. After that there was a period of feeling almost nothing but warmth and some more flexibility. And then. Started deep breathing qigong….. And the world opened up for me .everything has Qi . I became sensitive and opened to the outside world and people and food and music….. Now I have happiness and no pain! Thank you greatly !

  5. Tom Judge July 13, 2016 at 3:19 pm #

    Observation, feeling and Butterflies tell me my Qi is building. Two days ago while working in my yard a butterfly seemed to be following me. The day was very hot so I sat down in a shaded lawn chair. The Butterfly landed on the back of my hand. Black wings with orange, blue and brown, it gently moved its wings up and down, after a few minutes I moved it my hand slowly up to within 8″ of my face and gently blew. The butterfly held its wings in the closed horizontal position. I stopped blowing and it went back to its gentle wing movement , again I gently blew. We repeated this for approximately 10 minutes. I observed its long thread like tongue sipping (energy ?) on the veins of my hand. Getting up from my chair I walked to a nearby bougainvillea flower, held my hand so flower was touching butterfly, she stepped of my hand with tongue in flower as I started back for chair — she landed on my shoulder and then down onto hand. She obviously was getting more energy from my hand than the pollen of a flower. This relationship continued for over 30 minutes.
    That morning I had completed over 30 minutes of warrior stances gathering Qi. Animals and insects are so much better attuned to the flow of energy.
    Tom J

  6. Michael Ruppert July 13, 2016 at 9:42 pm #

    I have only been practing Tai Chi since Jan. Of this year. I noticed on some occasions I feel my hands tingle from the inside. Is this my qi?.
    Please let me know and thank you.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais July 15, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

      Sure, it’s probably your qi. Like I said, qi doesn’t have to be so mysterious. Tingling is a common and early sign of the qi moving. Keep going!

  7. Dion Short July 14, 2016 at 8:24 pm #

    I have sensed qi as vibratory feelings in my fingers and palms. i have felt it as heaviness in the tips of my fingers, and I have also experienced it as heat in the palms of my hands. Also, when I start moving spontaneously into doing tai chi, I sense it “oozing” from my finger tips.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais July 15, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

      Nice descriptions, Dion. As you practice, try to notice new and different sensations in other parts of the body.

  8. David Barnett July 20, 2016 at 10:05 am #

    I especially liked your comment that skeptics are looking for the wrong instrument for measuring chi, that currently the human body is the only instrument we have. I have long believed that. The problem is that science, until recently, has been very reductionist. I liken it to grinding an antique chair to sawdust and then saying “See? That’s all it was!” Just the way so many neuroscientists, as an article of “faith”, assume that consciousness is nothing but a result of brain chemistry, although they have yet to prove that.

    But we know better, right?

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais July 20, 2016 at 5:40 pm #

      Love your antique chair analogy!

      • Steve August 11, 2016 at 2:57 pm #

        I believe I recently read something from John Alton, qigong researcher, that China now claims to have equipment that detects qi.

  9. C.R. Sridhar. November 29, 2016 at 11:48 pm #

    Qi is discovered when the mind is suspended.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais November 30, 2016 at 7:23 am #

      Well said!

      • Steve November 30, 2016 at 12:38 pm #

        Suspension of the mind means transcending thoughts. That is what happens when one does Transcendental Meditation which takes us to Pure Consciousness. Egoless state, authentic Self, ground state of Quantum Physics. I have felt this from doing TM but never while doing Qigong.

        • Sifu Anthony Korahais November 30, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

          Steve, if you could do it during TM, then I’m betting that you can learn it quickly in qigong. Have you learned any zhan zhuang postures like Hugging The Tree? If not, you’re in for a treat!

          • Steve November 30, 2016 at 1:26 pm #

            Hi Sifu,
            yes, I do standing post every day as it is the last position upon completing Longevity Qigong form from the Purple Cloud Temple at Wudang Mountain. The Qi builds quite strongly around the hands then. I hold for 5-10 minutes. Very enjoyable quiet experience but is not the same as the transcendental state of consciousness I have from TM. I have also held static qigong postures for up to 25 minutes when having done Falun Gong.

            • Sifu Anthony Korahais November 30, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

              Oh good. I’m glad you’ve already got a taste of zhan zhuang.

              Sitting is always going to be deeper. That’s why it’s considered an advanced technique in the qigong world.

              But I’m guessing we can get you to go deeper in the standing postures too. I’ll do my best to help you discover the “stillness in the movement”, as they say.

            • Steve November 30, 2016 at 1:43 pm #

              Great, I look forward to being part of your new online qigong class!
              Steve

  10. David Whitham May 10, 2017 at 4:29 am #

    Great article Sifu, as a recent student I feel I am well placed to comment, I have practiced Taiji and qigong with other instructors and not felt or discovered qi not that I was searching for it, but was expecting some kind of sensation in my development.

    Since practicing with you for only 4 months I can safely say I have not only discovered the mysterious and illusive phenomena I have, with your help and fantastic tutorials, learned to embrace this gift of qi.

    My realization and discovery of qi is quite funny, apart from the side effects ie more energy, changes in perception of life and self, peace, harmony, balance, flexibility etc etc etc, I discovered when I perform my routine I kept having to check my fingers where separated, because the qi surrounding my fingers made me feel they where touching or closed, I can feel the qi everywhere but that experience is funny because it emphasizes the humanness of us all to want to discover qi and become an instant Iron Fist.

    Find a great Instructor Find the time to do the time and work needed Find the qi easy peasy just do what Sifu Anthony says and you will find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

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