I heard a lot about “Qi” during my year teaching in China. Everything involved Qi. In a way, it’s “breath” or life. I interpreted it as “life force.” A person’s Qi could be blocked because their house was too cluttered for the Qi to move. On New Years it was very important to clean the steps in front of one’s house and to wear new clothes to attract the best Qi of the new year. Qi is constantly in motion.
Qi exists in our minds, too. If you’ve ever puzzled over something a long time only to have an epiphany, that’s Qi being released and the mind clearing. Tears at something beautiful, music, a painting — Qi releasing, the heart opening. The complicated graceful motions of Tai-chi? Designed to help Qi move as it should, as it wants to.
I like the idea of it, but a lot of my Chinese friends considered it a superstition. I don’t really think so. I think there are a lot of complicated “micr-forces” that act on our well-being and not all of them are supernatural or even out there. People often have a higher self-esteem when they’re dressed well. Light coming into a house has a cheering effect (because we can see better?) Neatness and orderliness in our homes makes life less frustrating because we’re not perpetually tripping over stuff.
After I finish projects in my little studio I clean the surface I’ve been working on. I’m not thinking that I’m opening it up so the Qi can flow, but any Chinese would. Sometimes (and this is Qi, too) I discover things that challenge or lighten the Qi in my mind. This happened the other day.
I had cleaned off the surface of the table that is the “table of all work” in there and I found a little pile of treasures I’d set aside and hadn’t dealt with. I picked up the treasures and put them in the Big Envelope of All Small Treasures I Cannot Throw Out. All of them went into that envelope but one photo that I missed. It is a photo of my brother, his wife and me in 1979 working on a giant snow bear behind my mom’s condo in Denver. My mom took the picture.
It was my niece’ first Christmas. She was just a 6 week old baby. It was a very happy Christmas for all of us and it was improved by a massive dump of snow.
My mom really hated the fact that my brother and I were artists. “My children are NOT going to be artists,” she said. “Art is a four letter word in this house.” But my brother was an artist and I am an artist and there really wasn’t anything she (or Kirk or I) could do about it. Her attitude was one of the things I’ve had to overcome in my life, and I’ve only succeeded in fits and starts. I guess the support and approval of our parents (duh, Martha) is important, but not everyone has that, or even parents for that matter. We have to do our thing without it, but there is a gnawing ugly thing inside that messes up our Qi.
I’d seen this photo many times but I had never turned it over. I didn’t turn it over this time, either. I dropped it. On the back I saw my mom’s handwriting…
I’m never going to understand that very complex woman, but that she wrote this, expressing wonder over what her two strange kids were doing?
Let the Qi flow. ❤