First a Haiku:

Morning mountain gong

Heart offers blessings of Peace

Wuji births Taiji


Now for the review:

By Skink

February 26, 2024

I like books that are mind benders, even if I don’t fully understand them.  Francesco Garripoli’s “The Qi Effect” is a recent favorite.  Garripoli, a name familiar to many practitioners of the internal arts, is a Qigong teacher and current chair of the Qigong Institute.  He is well known for bailing on a full-ride to medical school to travel around China studying techniques and practices of ancient healing masters, experiences he shared in the PBS-TV Documentary he produced called, “Qigong: Ancient Chinese Healing for the 21th Century,” in 1998.

Garripoli currently teaches, writes, and lives in the mountains of North Carolina, where he is building the Wuji Mountain retreat center, a project of the nonprofit he created, CommunityAwake. Both the retreat center and the nonprofit were created to spread integrative health and healing arts awareness and wisdom.

While much has been written about qi (pronounced “chee,” aka prana in Hindu, and ki in Japanese), the life force energy which is at the core of much of Chinese philosophy and medicine, a lot of the writing defines this ancient concept with equally mysterious and hard to define concepts. While intrigued, I become lost in a world of terms that don’t have much cultural meaning to me.  Enter “The Qi Effect.”

If you’ve been around these ancient Chinese arts or healing modalities, you probably can sense that there is something real there, scientists just can’t really prove it yet.  A first step toward proof is to see successes with acupuncture, as it targets Qi by working along known electrical channels in the body.  And that thought might just be a snowflake on the tip of the iceberg of what is going on.

Garripoli dives right in:

This book is called “The Qi Effect” because the point of our exploration together is to grasp the energetic nature of our apparent ‘physical’ reality.  Let’s begin by going on a journey to see an alternative explanation for how the Universe came into being. 

Here begins a wild tour, quantum physics, quantum mechanics, string theory, quantum biology, only some of which I even think I understand.  But the tour is grand and, in my experience, fun.

You must do some work to try and bring it back to the goal of the subtitle, “Enhance Your Personal Practice,” but it’s there.  Garripoli says that he first studied Qigong as an 18-year-old and his astute teacher steered him towards his “energy body,” “an inner exploration of life force energy” as opposed to the more obvious physical strength that might come more naturally to an 18-year-old.

“I learned that our true power is in our sensitivity, not force.  At the core, Qigong for me is ‘sensitivity training.’  Qigong is about cultivating a sensitivity to Qi itself.”

Garripoli posits that Qigong practice is at its core, sensitivity training which enables him to:

[p]eer into the core of my true identity.  This identity was not one based on my physical qualities… My “true” and authentic identity was based on energy essence, defined in every way by Qi.  Learning to tap into this infinite field of energetic resource on a body, mind and spirit level is the only way that we can truly know who and what we are.  In doing so, we become sovereign, whole, and complete as we accept our own perfection.  This is a big shift from what I was told I was through my societal conditioning, and it’s a big shift from the “scarcity model” of the world that most everyone around me was ruled by.

The scarcity model, as defined by the author, is one in which there is a limited and declining amount of energy in the world and in each of us, leading to zero-sum thinking and all sorts of negative consequences.  Breaking out of that scarcity model to one of unlimited spiritual energy, love, and constant renewal, requires pursuing a path of the heart. Examples abound in the book of how one experiences the world given these different perspectives, with various scientific theories put forth to support the claims.  For example: “Quantum Biology moves us away from seeing the body solely as a complex of biochemical reactions into viewing our whole body as a coherent, intelligent energy field.”  Of course, I don’t know anything about Quantum Biology, so the reader has to go along for the ride.  Still, it’s a good one.

“Our Heart-resonant Intuitive Mind,” is, “that aspect of our Mind that is not bound by the linear intellectual bandwidth that measures and judges, nor is it the aspect of Mind that is consumed with survival-oriented processing.” I think we know this mind when we experience it.  It comes in those brief moments of meditation, moving or still, when our monkey mind is still and a sweet focus on gratitude or loving kindness, or even our breath feels so good.

Garripoli posits that the following is going on all the time, but especially when we are in rooted in our intuitive minds:

[t]he Universe is undergoing many transformational stages in the quantum field and is constantly being energized by Qi.  We will refer to this as the Qi Field.  The Qi Field provides the necessary energy to bring The Universe into being through quantum tunneling subatomic waveforms…

Whoa, this is when my head started to explode, perhaps a fractal of the original Big Bang, but still, it’s fascinating to read about, both the cited Quantum Physics and Garripoli’s interpretation of it.  As far as I understand, the Qi field is behind the magic of the formation of stars, which die, then explode and then: “spawn the physical world as we know it.” Hence, a Garripoli favorite, the motto of Pythagoras’s school in Ancient Greece: “We are the children of the stars.”

Now back to enhancing our personal practice. Seriously, this stuff is wonderful, but how will it help?

First, the author wants you to think of yourself as a conduit of energy (abundance), not as a container (back to the scarcity model).  He says we are not gathering Qi but rather, we are swimming in it, it is unlimited, and our job is to turn it on in ourselves.  Think of a light switch.  Garripoli says when you turn a light switch on, the electrons aren’t racing around the circuit like greyhounds on a track.  Instead, electrons in the entire circuit begin to vibrate together.  Qi is somehow the magic behind all the actual forces we can feel, like gravity, or see, like daffodils coming through the soil, given that every atom, molecule, human, planet, galaxy has an electromagnetic field of energy like the image of the donut shaped magnetic field that surrounds the earth.

According to Garripoli, we have this too, our aura in a way, or what the ancient Chinese called the Wei Qi field that is around each of us.

The Qi Effect gets deep into quantum physics and quantum biology and then rolls them into the internal arts.  Even with multiple enjoyable readings of the book, I still have many questions and much to learn.  There are moments when I feel like I am in that scene in the movie Animal House when actor Donald Sutherland’s character, a college professor, and his student are saying with awe: “One tiny atom in my fingernail could be one little, tiny universe.”

So, in breaking down the mysterious nomenclature of the ancient Chinese internal arts, Garripoli substitutes the concepts and terminology of quantum mechanics, which itself is complex and evolving.  And yet I find that it works.  If everything that we are, and everything that we experience, are interwoven energy fields, then a knowledge of this (more like a meditation on it) can inform and enhance our personal practices, from sitting meditation to the various moving meditations of Qigong, Tai Chi Chuan, among others.

I think it comes down to this.  By diving deep into these beautiful concepts and our emerging understanding of how the world works, we can better enable ourselves to thrive as a part of it.  But ultimately, you don’t have to think too much.  Just feel it in your practice.  Garripoli says that Qigong is sensitivity training, inspiring us to feel perhaps the electromagnetism of our bodies and related fields around us.

Regardless of exactly what we are feeling, the gentleness and openness of relaxed sensitivity, can lead to a lovely practice.