There is an important connection between the internal martial arts practice of ‘bone marrow breathing’ and the mystic concept that ‘God loves you.’
They are not philosophical or intellectual ideas. They are both felt experiences that positively support us.
Moreover, both experiences have strategies for deepening them.
The internal martial artist may seem very different from the mystic, but they are working with similar principles.
I was thinking about this, lying in bed, recuperating from a tough couple of weeks. I had been knocked out by a kidney infection and then, partially recovered, found myself caring for other members of the family facing health crises. I was exhausted to the point of irritability.
But I teach and practise self-care. So, I turned up the volume on my bag of self-healing strategies.
How do we turn up the volume?
For stronger and deeper healing, we have to become softer. Our attitude and mood need to resemble the lightest touch of the most delicate feather.
In yoga and internal martial arts (Qi Gung) there is a saying: the softer, the deeper. For the healing energy to sink more fully into your body, it needs to be soft, gentle and subtle, not vibrant and intense.
This is explicitly taught in the Taoist approach to health, Taoism being the source of Qi Gung and bone marrow breathing. In the Taoist model, the universe is a flowing, moving, ocean of change. It is essentially benevolent and to benefit from this goodness, we need to place ourselves in harmony with it and become part of its flow. One crucial element in this harmonisation is for us to soften, become lighter, more flexible.
Just as the Tao is benevolently harmonious, so too the mystic’s experience of deity is benevolent.
For the mystics who want a deeper spiritual connection and experience, there is also similar practical advice. They are asked to empty and yield softly to benevolence and love.
In mystic poetry this is often described as a form of swooning — but your lover is the Divine. Dissolve me like sugar in warm tea, wrote Rumi the Sufi mystic.
In practice, this mystic emptying and yielding is, I suggest, the same felt experience as softening to go deeper.
I notice too that there are parallels in the practices of many spiritual traditions. The metta practice of Buddhism, for example, points in the same direction. May I be at ease in my own body . . . May I develop compassion . . .
Different cultures have different ways of expressing the same concept, practice and experience.
A Quantum Leap
To even better experience the softness, the love, the flow and healing, there is also a quantum leap we can make.
This is a sincere personal surrender and commitment to the love, benevolence and compassion of the universe.
You, and you alone, know whether you have made this shift.
Having committed to this love, we are not perfect. It is always work in progress. We still have the usual human faults, but essentially we are at peace with the universe.
This means that our self-care and self-healing can go ever softer and deeper. Good for us. Good for those around us.
Be as comfortable as you can.
Patiently contemplate that the cosmos is benevolent.
Notice any good feelings.
Soften your attitude and mood.
Allow the goodness to sink into you. Yield. Breathe it in.
Practise this again and again.
Thank you for this William , I know this deep down somewhere , but at difficult times (when we most need it) it’s easy to forget and then we need someone to remind us … blessings and gratitude …
Loved your article. Simple and effective!! So lovely to remember to ‘soften’.
THANKYOU William!! Blessings to you and your family!!
From Marilyn in Canada.
Thank you 💚
Thank you William, this is lovely. The only thing I can think of which resonates with the softening is that when I am giving healing to someone, after I have connected but before the healing session starts, I invariably get a message to soften my knees, (out of the rigid stiff pose they often reside in!) and allowing a relaxation of the muscles. Doing so instantly gives me a feeling of connection, of oneness with everything.
I hope you are feeling better
The parallels in the practices of many spiritual traditions are surely significant. Why don`t we teach these significances in schools I wonder as I watch students suffer from unnecessary anxieties
Sure ding to universal love… the divine mother..
Thanks for the reminder William
To know that love is the strongest power of protection in a wild abandon opening of the heart is sometimes hard to remember when faced with other forces or life situations
And yet that’s what we need instead of retracting and going into fear (almost coming down to the level of the other energy & making self small)
As a PS… in Chinese medicine… the bone marrow is the kidney energy & it’s inherited from our mother
Our life force ❤️
Set me thinking about correspondences . . .
Divine Mother –> Milky Way –> Bone Marrow
Thank you so much William for your timely advice, glad you and your family are feeling better. Love and blessings – Christine
I totally resonate with your beautiful words William. Surrender, ‘let go and let God’, entering the spaces to find God between words in Catholic lectio divina, ‘seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all shall be added unto you’, ‘just sit there and let God look at you’ (St Francis de Sales), even the Alexander teaching of ‘not doing’ all speak to the idea of surrendering to the benevolence of the healing Spirit. Love and blessings Susie xxx
I’d love to (in your calming words) surrender to the love, benevolence and compassion of the universe but I come up against a persistent question. Why does evil exist in our universe?
“Why does evil exist?” That is a deep question. Whatever the answer, that kind of enquiry must not stop our practice of benevolence and love. More Love = Less bad stuff.
“Surrender” to the flow is also a key to understanding the breakthroughs of Trappist monks Thomas Merton and Thomas Keating (Centering Prayer) according to Cynthia Bourgeault in her book “The Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice” (p. 75). The Healing Tao of Mantak Chia rhymes with Benedictine spirituality when it takes root in the Tai Chi body, the self-aware energy system.
So strange! I had not heard about Qigong until two weeks ago. I have embarked on a beginner’s course with Master Mingtong Gu and one of the exercises is related to the bone marrow. I have read many testimonials of how a regular practice, can improve all aspects of your wellness. I am intrigued and excited to have started something new.
I read this just as I had emerged from sitting quietly and tuning into the surrounding pine trees whilst on my own for a while in the midst of a frenetic CenterParcs weekend with my children and grandchildren. It’s very hot, there are hordes of people around, tempers are fraying and it was bliss to be able to simply be with the trees. With Thay in my thoughts, breathing in Present Moment, breathing out Wonderful Moment. Appreciating how much easier it feels to still when surrounded by the presence of trees, appreciating how tuning in to the benevolence of the universe fills and expands my heart and body in a way that will enable me to be open and loving to my eight rambunctious adult and child family when they return, rather than closing off in self protection. Appreciating this synchronicity of communication here, and the many years of practice which are landing ever deeper in my body, including those learned and practised with you in past decades William. Gratitude and wellness wishings to you 💜🙏
I resonate with everything you say and glad you and family are feeling better. Hopefully you remember we have spoken over the years and l told you l surrendered to a guru a few years back. It’s working for me. It’s correct what you say..that doesn’t make me instantly happy..but l let him lead my path to happiness now as l am feeling alot if love and l understand he knows the way better than me 😊. I’m sure this path wouldn’t work for everyone but it’s working for me 👍🏻. Lots of love, SuzieKelly 💜
Sending warmth, thank you for your lovely article. Swoon- surrender and soften. That is beautiful. Wishing you and your close ones continued good well being.
In my Quaker practise of quiet sitting I notice the qualities of gentleness especially with certain places and flowers /plants which I give thanks for and ask for guidance . This is however very ephemeral and the practise of talking to my body and massaging my feet each day has on the simplest way been very healing , touch is a gift in softness also.
Hi William, a beautiful blog…I felt myself softening and connecting with the Universe as I read it…A sweet reminder for us all…Thankyou.
In yoga we talk about effort and surrender…effort and strength are sometimes needed to get into certain poses…and then comes the surrender, a softening and relaxing of the muscles that helps us go deeper and open more into the pose…I’ve always been so good at the effort part, making things happen by sheer determination and hard work…Now I am learning more and more to surrender, soften and allow, in my yoga practice and when I am faced with life’s challenges…Less effort, more surrender…And this feels good to me…Sometimes the soft way is a better way…
Namaste, Brenda x
Thank you for this lovely article William. As others have said, a lovely reminder to take care of ourselves, soften, yield, surrender to the love and benevolence which really can be felt. I love your approach and writings. You make it all so simple and down to earth, you bring the essence of what can sometimes seem complicated teachings from different spiritual modalities, to real life. I come back to your words time and time again, and you are the one who makes the most sense for me. Thank you.
Thank you for the connection. Where did you learn “bone marrow breathing”?
I first encountered bone marrow breathing in a Mantak Chia book.
I talk to my ‘innate’ self like a kind friendly brother sister or lover partner…I thank it for continually healing me but if a pain comes back I ask it to please ‘have another go ‘ at that sore place or whatever is bothering you.It may sound very simplistic and maybe childlike but it works for me.Thank you William.