“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.
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
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:
- 10,000+ hours of personal qigong practice.
- 1500+ hours of acupuncture training (which also uses the qi).
- 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.
Because I taught them how to discover the qi.
I can sum up this article in 4 sentences:
- The human body may be the only thing capable of measuring the qi.
- To measure the qi with the human body, you need meditative skill.
- To gain meditative skill, you need proper instruction and proper practice.
- 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 how to use qigong for their own stubborn health challenges. As the director of Flowing Zen and a board member for the National Qigong Association, I'm fully committed to helping people with these arts. In addition to my blog, I also teach online courses and offer in-person retreats and workshops.