In this edition of Ask Sifu Anthony, you’ll find questions about cancer, pain, self-compassion, qigong fasting, long-covid, and dantian theory.
I believe that students should be able to get the answers that they need. That’s why I work so hard answering questions in our free Facebook group, inside my online programs, in our webinars, and here on the blog.
Seeing other students asks questions that you might have asked yourself – and then reading the answers – helps us everyone feel connected to a global qigong community. It also helps those who are too introverted or too shy to ask a question! Plus, you can add comments and questions below the post!
Question 1: Dave
I’ve got a large recurring liposarcoma on my thigh. I’ve tried almost everything I can think of to get rid of it. No matter what I do, it slowly keeps growing and I have to keep getting the same surgery. Help! “
Hi Dave. From your submission form, I understand that you haven’t yet learned the Flowing Zen 5-Phase Routine. So it would seem that you haven’t tried quite everything! Gotcha!
But seriously, many students come to me having already tried “everything”, often for decades. And many of them find that qigong is the puzzle piece that they were searching for. Or rather, I should say Flowing Zen Qigong because many students had previously tried other types of qigong that did not work for them.
I think you’re a perfect candidate for Flowing Zen Qigong. Many therapies require a clear etiology in order to be effective, but Flowing Zen Qigong is not one of them.
You have a diagnosis, but there is no etiology. Experts aren’t sure how soft tissue sarcomas develop. [Source]
In other words, we know that you have a recurring liposarcoma, but no one knows why. Luckily, the why doesn’t matter.
In my qigong school, we use an amazing technique called Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow (FBSW) to circulate the energy freely through the 12 Primary Meridians. Because of this, the healing energy flows where it needs to go, no etiology needed. This is why cases like yours often do well with Flowing Zen Qigong.
Before my book came out in March, you would have had to pay $100-$500 for one of my online courses in order to learn FBSW. Now you can learn it for $10 (Kindle) or $18 (paperback). That’s because the book comes with an online mini-course that will teach you the 5-Phase Routine.
I need to be clear that I’m not a doctor, I’ve never played one on TV, and that it is literally illegal in the US for me to claim that qigong can cure cancer. However, in Chapter 5 of my book, I talk about what we can and cannot heal with qigong, and I use cancer as a theoretical example. I think this section will be of particular interest to you. Please keep us posted on your progress!
Question 2: Tina
Hi Sifu, I would love to have some suggestions on how to keep my practice going on the days my body says no. Meaning, I am too weak or in too much pain to stand up and can’t lift my arms. I have been trying to visualise my practice lying down but I don’t see much benefit. What would you suggest as a strategy – mindset practice when nothing seems to help and I get disheartened and just want to give the practice up all together? Sometimes it is hard to believe that the practice is making a difference.
Note: after receiving this submission, I emailed Tina to ask some follow-up questions. Because of this, I know more about her situation that might be revealed in her question.
Hi Tina. I understand that you ruptured your achilles tendon back in 2019 and had surgery to repair it. I also understand that you developed a chronic pain syndrome after the surgery and that doctors are not offering you good solutions. You mentioned that you believe your pain can be cured, but that you haven’t yet found a healer who understands what is going on.
I want you to know that I do understand what’s going on and I believe that qigong can help you to reclaim your life.
When it comes to chronic pain, Western medicine does yet not have good answers. That is changing with the rise of Mind-Body medicine, but the change is slow – too slow for you. Luckily, we don’t have to wait.
The first question we need to answer is why your body is saying no to qigong. It’s great that you’re in tune with your body and can hear when it cries out. But why is it saying no to qigong?
I suspect that a part of your psyche is saying no to qigong because it feels unsafe.
Why would something like qigong feel unsafe? Because qigong involves relaxing the nervous system and unblocking emotions that may have been stuck for years. Part of you probably feels that these emotions are too big to unblock. So that part of you resists.
If my theory is correct, then the solution is self-compassion. In the Zen tradition, we call this “metta”, or loving-kindness. The best way I’ve found to practice metta is to talk or write to the wounded part of myself as if it were a child.
Speak to this part of yourself with kindness, compassion, and understanding. Listen to it if you can. See if you can figure out why part of you feels unsafe with qigong. Make this self-compassion your practice until you feel safe enough to resume qigong.
As you resume your qigong, continue to be kind to yourself. The goal is to practice daily, or even twice daily, but this doesn’t mean that we should shame ourselves if we fail to reach that goal immediately. It might take a few months or even a few years to accomplish this goal. The more self-compassion you practice, the faster you’ll go.
On days when you feel a resistance to practicing, ask yourself if it’s okay to practice the 2-Minute Drill. It’s only 2 minutes. Would that be okay? Usually, the psyche will agree to this.
From there, try to do the 5-Phase Routine a few times a week. You can do a combination of sitting and standing. If you only stand for one phase, make it Phase 3. This article will give you some tips on doing qigong from a chair.
The combination of patience + self-compassion will inevitably lead you to a daily practice of the Flowing Zen 5-Phase Routine. And once you can do that 5-6 times per week, you will be well on your way to relieving your chronic pain and reclaiming your life.
You can do this! It’s okay to go slow as long as you do not give up.
Question 3: Lilly
I can’t walk a lot because I feel like I am out of breath, even if I’m sitting down I feel I can’t breathe right. Doctors can’t find nothing wrong so they say it is my anxiety, but I know it’s not. Any suggestions for what exercise I can do? Thanks.
Hi Lilly. I understand that you just learned the 5-Phase Routine a few weeks ago. Good for you and welcome to the Flowing Zen family!
I’m not a doctor, but it sounds to me like long-covid might be one possible explanation for your breathing problems. Have your doctors mentioned this? Remember, the latest research shows that you can get long-covid even if you had an asymptomatic case of covid.
Luckily, it doesn’t matter if it’s long-covid or anxiety or something else. It’s always good to work with medical professionals to rule out acute or serious problems, but you’ve already done that.
Now it’s time for you to contribute to your own healing process with qigong. The beautiful thing about Flowing Zen Qigong is that we don’t need a diagnosis. By practicing the 5-Phase Routine, which you can learn in the bonuses that come with my book, you will get all of your body’s healing processes flowing again.
Here’s my promise to you: Do the 5-Phase routine for 30 days in a row and you will see progress.
This doesn’t mean you’ll be 100% fixed in 30 days, but rather that you will see clear signs of progress. You might breathe a little easier, or feel that you don’t lose your breath as easily when sitting. Or you may feel that your overall energy levels have improved, along with your mood.
Make sure to use the Qi Chart that is included in the book bonuses. And remember – it’s not easy to practice the 5-Phase Routine daily. Be gentle with yourself as you take on this challenge. Use the 2-Minute drill to start, and work up to the 5-Phase Routine. Everything you need to start healing can be found in my book and the accompanying bonuses!
Question 4: Julie
Do you think fasting (aka Bigu fasting) is helpful or unnecessary? Asking as a cancer survivor.
Hi Julie. First, congrats on beating cancer! And I applaud your effort to continue making healthy lifestyle changes, including qigong. Good for you!
For those who don’t know, bigu (辟穀, pronounced “bee goo”), or “grain avoidance”, is an ancient Taoist fasting practice that was typically practiced by spiritualists. Some people interpret it as avoiding all food (aka water fasting) and others interpret it as fasting from carbohydrates (aka a low-carb or ketogenic diet). I think there are good arguments for both interpretations.
The last I checked, research was being done on the efficacy of water fasting for cancer outcomes. I am not sure if there is conclusive evidence yet. I know that a fasting-mimicking diet helped cancer patients survive and get over chemotherapy quicker [source], but I don’t know if further research has been done since then.
From a qigong perspective, there’s no question that fasting boosts the flow of qi. Spiritualists and ascetics have done this for years in order to focus the mind and cleanse the body. The Shaolin Monks probably practiced something like this for centuries. They probably ate once per day around noontime. Many Buddhist monks still follow a similar schedule. This in itself isn’t reason enough to copy them, but I think it’s interesting.
I myself have experimented with fasting for years, and so have many of my students. Even just a 12-hour fast from 8pm to 8am the following day can boost the flow of qi during qigong sessions..
This is an experiment that you can run yourself, assuming that it’s medically safe for you to fast for 12 hours. Limit your eating window to 12 hours on some days. See how you feel. Assuming that you’ve been practicing qigong previously, does it change the flow of qi in your body?
If fasting improves the flow of qi, then it’s safe to assume that it also has a general salutary effect. And this is, in a nutshell, what the ancient Taoists were saying.
I’m not recommending intermittent fasting per se, although I myself do it often. I am, however, saying that intermittent fasting helps with the flow of qi. I think there is also growing research being done on intermittent fasting. Here’s an interesting podcast on the subject by Andrew Huberman, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and tenured Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
If you decide to try intermittent fasting, just do your normal 5-Phase Routine during the fasted period. If you get hungry, do the 2-minute drill and then drink some water after. This simple equation can make a 12-hour fast incredibly easy.
Question 5: Jonathon
Hi Sifu, I hear some teachers talk about forming the Dan Tian and that you need particular practices that will form it. Unlike some theories that state you already have a Lower Dan Tian formed. What are your thoughts on this? And what practices would you say form the Dan Tian?
Hi Jonathon. Qigong teachers like to argue about stuff like this. I suppose these arguments happen in academia too, but I’m not sure if they are helpful for the lay practitioner.
Personally, I think that dantian is natural and already exists in every human. Some people feel dantian even though they’ve never done qigong. So if dantian is only formed with specific qigong practices, then how did these people form it?
That’s my theory, but it doesn’t matter if I’m wrong. For example, before doing qigong, I couldn’t feel dantian. We learned about dantian (tanden) in my karate days in the 1990s, but I never felt anything. Even after I found qigong, it took years for me to finally feel the golden pearl at dantian.
If my dantian was already formed, then it wasn’t strong enough to feel until I did lots of qigong. Or if I formed it with qigong, then what’s the difference, practically speaking? I now have a pearl of qi at dantian. Et voilà!
In my school, we cultivate dantian in Phase 4 of the 5-Phase Routine. Later, adding zhan zhuang (the Warrior Stances) will also help. And later still, you can add Dantian Breathing and Small Universe Breathing.
Get to work on that dantian and then you can decide for yourself!
Question 6: Anonymous
I am on a healing journey. Detox for body health (not addictions). Insomnia 20 years (no sleep aid meds). I made a decision to do nothing till better. In early 2019, I worked with and on many things like Wellness Chiropractor and Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT). So question would be what self healing Ideas would you have? Yes I know I have to make Qigong a regular practice. Detox has made feet and hands painful. I look forward to your thoughts and insight.
Hello there. You say that you know that you have to make qigong a regular practice. But knowing is not enough. You have to act.
In my book, I talk about my own repeated failures while trying to make qigong a regular practice. It’s not easy to put all of your own failures on display for thousands of people, but I did it because I want my readers to know something important: If I can do it, you can too.
Making qigong a regular habit is not easy. As a teacher, I don’t just tell my students what to practice; I also help them to develop the HABIT of practicing. This is something that everyone struggles with. If you are human, then you will struggle as well.
From your submission, I know that you are in your 50s, your health is bad, and you have not yet learned the Flowing Zen 5-Phase Routine. My book contains all of my best thoughts, ideas, and insights into self-healing. It is the culmination of 30 years of practice and 17 years of teaching. It also comes with videos teaching the 5-Phase Routine.
If you understand English well enough to read it, then that is my recommendation. If you cannot understand my book, then I recommend that you read my blog and use a translator. My blog has 3 books worth of material. It is not as good as my book, but it’s free and you will learn a lot about qigong and self-healing! From the heart, Sifu Anthony