Hello, I have been using Level 1 to help in healing from musician's focal dystonia, as well as associated anxiety and depression. This condition has taken away my ability to play my brass instrument (which is my career) due to involuntary contractions and dysfunctional movements of my tongue, jaw, and throat. The problem has also crept a bit into other areas of my life, and sometimes I experience obsession with how my tongue or jaw feel. There can be discomfort, tension, or just a troubling hyper-awareness that bothers me at lot. At first practicing Spring Forest Qigong seemed very helpful and comforting, but lately I am having a lot of trouble with the instruction to "put the tongue against the roof of the mouth." When I do this I quickly feel discomfort through tension in my tongue and/or jaw, and I become obsessed with trying to become more comfortable, which I cannot achieve. I can no longer concentrate on the exercises, meditations or visualizations at all - I can't tear my awareness away from my tongue and jaw. Is it ok to just skip this instruction about the tongue, at least for now? Part of the problem of focal dystonia is excessive awareness of the affected body part, so I fear that placing and holding my tongue in a particular position may be making it worse. I would love to get back to practicing Qigong, but feel I need to take a break until I get some clarity on this question. Thank you so much for your help!
Great question, skm62.
I'd suggest the same thing I do when folks start practicing the reverse breathing technique in Level Two. Some end up focusing on the breathing instead of feeling the energy, and that has their breath being shorter and constricted than relaxed and open as we want it to be.
What I suggest to them is to relax and only do the reverse breathing for the first three breaths before saying the password in your mind with, then forget it and do your normal breathing after that. It's more important to focus on feeling the energy, than getting the breath "right."
So in your situation, like others that have let thoughts of "Is my tongue touching the roof of my mouth?" "Do I still have a smile on my face?" "Are my shoulders dropped?" etc. All of those preparatory things he has you do at the beginning- Do them when he instructs you to do them. Feel it. then forget about it and focus on the next instruction, then forget that and focus on the next, then the next, until your instruction is the exercise. The rest doesn't matter. Interestingly enough, you may find yourself naturally doing those little pieces automatically after a while. At this point though, no need to check yourself throughout the exercises to see if you are doing everything. Just focus on the experiencing the sensation/feeling of last instruction...the rest you will slowly train yourself to do without trying over time.
And the tounge at the roof of the mouth's palcement is as if you making the sound for the letter "n." The tounge being at the roof of the mouth makes the front and back channel conntection. Allow that connection to be made at the begining and put out the intention that it connection happens regardless of what your tounge is doing, then give yourself permission to forget about having to do anything with your toungue, and just focus on the next instruction.
Thank you so much, Shawn,
Interestingly I just had a beautiful practice before reading your message, and what I tried was exactly what you said. I invited my tongue to be in that position at the beginning and then let it go to do what it needed to do. You were right that sometimes it drifted back to the roof of my mouth, while at other times it did other things. Most importantly, it didn't distract me too much and I was able to feel the energy and have a really enjoyable session, both with some active exercises and the small universe meditation.
Thank you also for the clarification of exactly where to put the tongue. I had wondered about this, at the place you mention is certainly easier (less tension) than trying to put the tongue any further back.
Lastly, I am trying to do my practice around solar noon when possible, since I believe Master Lin said that the front and back channels connect automatically at this time. (And at midnight, but I would fall asleep then!) I appreciate what you said about having the intention that the channels will connect no matter what my tongue does - I was hoping that would be the case!
It is wonderful that your advice and my intuition converged! Thank you so much! I am grateful to be back to practicing (and to have it be a positive experience again.)
All the best to you!