Most Eastern esoteric paths espouse that a practitioner of any esoteric art should proactively cultivate and strengthen the personal Qi, or life force, because when you do any form of intense metaphysical work, you’re drawing from that pool of personal Qi. If you’re not mindful of replenishing that Qi, then the constant weakening of your life force from the occult work that you do (this includes divination) can cause physical and mental health concerns. So to maintain optimal wellbeing–and that’s physical, mental, and psychic-spiritual wellbeing–cultivation practices are necessary.
The Metaphysician’s Qi
Divination, ceremonial ritual, mediumship, channeling, pathworking, spell-crafting, astral journeying—these practices are believed to exhaust a lot of your personal life force, and so as a metaphysician, you want to establish a routine practice of cultivating and strengthening your Qi, or life force, to maintain your wellbeing. Otherwise, you can become more susceptible to illness, both of the physical and mental variety.
Taking measures to cultivate and strengthen personal Qi is a practice everyone and anyone can benefit from, much like how everyone and anyone should be mindful of nutrition and physical exercise. However, the nutritional needs of your everyday office worker is very different from the nutritional needs of an Olympic swimmer. So we can make the comparison here of an occultist to the Olympic swimmer, because it’s considered an out-of-the-ordinary lifestyle, and so your nutritional needs– in this case psychic-spiritual nutritional needs– will be different from the average person.
Let’s cover six ways a metaphysician can cultivate Qi:
- Qi Gong
- Basic Meditation
- Diet, Herbology, and Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Warding Your Living Space
- Ancestor Veneration
First, Know Yourself & Why This Article Should Matter To You
If you don’t know what your true weaknesses are, how do you correct them? Knowing your temperament, your physical body constitution, and having a clear understanding of your lifestyle and the impact of that lifestyle on your personhood will help you prescribe the best course of Qi cultivation for yourself.
Since many Eastern metaphysicians and holistic healers believe in natal astrology, reading your birth chart can help you map out your personal elemental balances and the implications of your elemental strengths and weaknesses.
Are you yin-dominant? You’re more likely to get cold, but your physiology is better tuned for mediumship and channeling. Are you yang-dominant? You’re more likely to be short-tempered and get high blood pressure, but your physiology is better tuned for ceremonial magic.
Are you Wood-dominant? You’re more visionary, are better at communications and verbal or writing skills. In society, you’re a keeper of knowledge. Fire-dominant? You possess innate leadership qualities. Earth-dominant? You’re the one everyone relies on, the anchor point, and as a member of society, your role is to help uphold traditions and values. Metal-dominant? You help curate society’s laws and policies. You push the envelope forward and you help to usher in progress. Those who are Water-dominant are diplomats, keeping society heart-centered.
And all of those personality correspondences from the Wu Xing are connected directly to particularized health concerns, both physical and mental. Imbalances of yin and yang in Wood relate to the eyes and liver. Yin and yang Fire imbalances relate to the heart, blood, and circulatory system. Yin and yang Earth imbalance can impact the muscular system and spleen. Metal governs the respiratory system, sense of smell, and skin conditions; Water to the urinary tract, kidneys, emotions such as fear, peace, and intuition, etc.
Your personality and your physical health are related. If you’re susceptible to high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, migraines, or nose bleeds, then ask yourself: do you also happen to have a bad temper or a fiery personality? You may be letting that facet of your personal Qi go out of balance. Do you tend to be indecisive, wishy-washy, and do you frequently hear friends and family tell you that you’re too sensitive or too emotional? You may be more susceptible to neurological issues, lightheadedness, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, dehydration, etc.
There’s a lore that those who think too much and speak too fast, whose thoughts are always racing at rapid speed through their minds are more prone to respiratory issues. The analogy made is to physically running a marathon– you get out of breath. After you’ve run, you have to slow down and take measure to steadily get your heart back to a normal rate. Likewise, those whose minds are always running a figurative marathon will physiologically be more susceptible to asthma, bronchial issues, throat chakra issues, and have breathing difficulties. Like the runner, they need to consider meditative practices that can help them slow down and steady their minds. When they do, they in turn can improve their respiratory concerns.
Thus, the precise way you go about cultivating and strengthening your personal Qi will need to be a customized prescription. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, though this article will try to cover some of the generalities.
Now let’s talk about common issues found among metaphysical practitioners. There’s also a belief in polarity between your physical senses and your psychic senses. So if your physical eyes are myopic, then your psychic vision is more likely to be far-sighted, to be stronger, and you’re going to be more clairvoyant.
If you do a lot of channeling work, you’re a medium, or you have an active practice in shamanic journeying, then you’re more likely to have a weakened lymphatic system, you’re more susceptible to colds and flus, and you’re more likely to have nutrition deficiencies, so you have to pay close attention to your intake of vitamins and minerals. Your body may be flushing out vitamins and minerals more quickly than average.
Generally, there is a folk belief that those who are more connected and in tune with the spirit worlds beyond are also more prone to mental health concerns. But you’re not helpless. There is preventative care here, and it’s called Qi cultivation.
In Eastern esotericism, we believe everything is interconnected, so there’s no focusing on one issue or concern you’re having to the neglect of everything else. Every form of solution is always holistic, to the point where I’d say it has to be about lifestyle. Thus, how you as an individual ought to approach Qi cultivation has to be a customized determination based on your lifestyle.
Back to my Olympic swimmer analogy. If you’re an Olympic swimmer, then your diet and caloric intake is going to be substantially different from ordinary levels because you need to accumulate the reservoir of energy your body needs to burn through for the type of lifestyle you choose to lead.
Likewise, if you’re a professional tarot reader, psychic, or have an active practice of witchcraft, then you’re constantly exhausting your psychic senses. In Eastern philosophy, we believe holistically there is a physiological equivalent, so that metaphysican’s lifestyle you choose to lead will take a physical toll on your body in ways that maybe you don’t realize are connected to your metaphysical practice.
That is why I hope you’ll consider what I have to say in this essential guide and consider what routine cultivation practices you’ll integrate into your everyday life.
The term “qi gong” was first recorded in use during the Jin Dynasy (265 AD – 420 AD) by a Taoist priest, Xu Xun, who instructed in a Book of Methods or grimoire that a practicing Taoist should begin with learning qi gong and cultivating one’s internal life essence.
Qi gong is premised on three principles: body (your forms), breath (control), and mind (focus). The cultivation of your personal Qi and strengthening of your vitality comes from harmonizing the three together. “Qi gong” is a generic term, like “pagan” or “traditional witchcraft,” and under its umbrella there are defined schools of practice. Some forms have become widespread and popular, such as the Five Animals, where the forms are inspired by the tiger, crane, leopard, snake, and dragon, corresponding with the Wu Xing. Ba Duan Jing (Eight Silken Movements) form set variations, which are rooted in the Ba Gua eight trigrams, are also popular. Others are proprietary and only initiated members of a lineage would be taught those forms.
If you want to pursue a serious study of qigong, a good place to start reading is the multi-volume book set Chinese Medical Qigong, edited by Tianjuan Liu and Kevin Chen. Any of the books by Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming would be great. A must-have addition to a dedicated practitioner’s personal library would be An Illustrated Handbook of Chinese Qigong Forms from the Ancient Texts, edited by Li Jingwei and Zhu Jianping.
There is more than likely a Diasporic Chinese enclave near where you live. Be adventurous and seek it out. Be even more adventurous and see if locals can direct you to a qi gong school. Sign up for classes and learn from native practitioners. It’s okay– with patience and an open heart, no matter what the language barrier, you can overcome it. Step out of your comfort zone and you’ll be rewarded.
Reiki is a modern, contemporary
reduction reinterpretation of qigong. If you ever thought reiki was neat, wait until you learn the real deal.
For some basic but possibly life-changing qi gong energy healing exercises you can implement into your lifestyle and improve your vitality, check out my “Tarot and Shadow Work” online course. While it’s focused on working with the tarot (at a beginner level) and doing shadow work with the cards, it connects that work to healing methods based on qi gong principles.
A simple, sustainable way to build up your personal Qi as a practitioner is to set aside at least 3 minutes per day for basic meditation. Although not necessary, I like to set out a purification stone or crystal, such as a selenite tower, a fluorite or amethyst pyramid (great specifically for practitioners of the craft), or if your specific intent is grounding, then black tourmaline, an obsidian sphere, or a black onyx sphere. Conceptualize this stone in front of you as a psychic air purifier.
Then sit still (whether on the floor in a formal meditation position or just in your seat where you are), back straight, up tall, as if there is a string at the crown of your head and someone above has pulled it taut on you, and your palms touching each other in prayer mudra.
Close your eyes and take a slow, steady inhale of breath. As you inhale, conceptualize the breath of air you’re taking in as purified and cleared by the stone in front of you, that this air is the pre-filtered from your environment and is the strongest, most invigorating components of the air, and feel it fill every part of you internally, top down.
Then hold your breath for the slightest moment before exhale. Switch focus and conceptualize that focus to now be on the energy “waste” inside of you. Gather up that “waste” in your breath and then exhale it out slowly, steadily.
The breaths, inhale and exhale, should be as slowly and steadily as you can manage. Do this consecutively for 3 minutes per day. That’s it.
When 3 minutes per day has become effortless and habitual, build up to 5 minutes per day, 10 minutes per day, up to 15 to 20 minutes per day. Whether or not you experience immediate benefits of this is up to your susceptibility to the placebo effect (my opinion), but I absolutely believe there are long-term sustainable health and psychic benefits to integrating basic meditation into your lifestyle.
Basic TCM Tips for the Metaphysician
This is very specific to one who dabbles in the occult and they are generic tips, which do not account for your very specific body and mental constitution.
Black vinegar “dissolves” any malefic Qi in your system. Vinegar has been part of the Chinese culinary tradition since 2000 BC. A common dish prepared for new mothers is black vinegar chicken (or black vinegar pig’s feet) to help them replenish their system and regain their strength. In Chinese poison magic traditions, black vinegar is often a key ingredient in healing antidote potions. When you believe you’ve been cursed or hexed, drink up on the black vinegar. =)
Onions (raw) not only have loads of cool healing properties when you’re talking holistic medicine, but in terms of their metaphysical properties, invigorate and strengthen your personal Qi. However, onions are considered very yang, so for some body constitutions, that overpowering of yang to the system can cause indigestion, can cause further inflammation and exacerbate eczema, or cause a sense of bloating.
In old Chinese folk tradition, when someone in the house is sick, you leave out a bowl of black vinegar and raw cut onions. The superstitious explanation for that is sickness is caused by menacing spirits, so the vinegar and onions will compel the menacing spirits to leave and the rest of the household won’t get sick. The TCM explanation for it is vinegar and onions can absorb or neutralize toxins, bacteria, and viruses.
Garlic and ginger also help to purify of any residual spirit yin Qi left over or that may still be in your system after occult workings. I don’t go out of my way to, say, drink straight out of a bottle of black vinegar or eat raw garlic and ginger, but I do make sure to incorporate these ingredients into everyday cooking.
An occult practitioner may want to consider a zinc-rich and iron-rich diet. This is believed to have a warding effect, and is a form of preventative inner alchemical care that makes it harder for malefic attachments to linger in your system. Zinc and iron-rich foods help to fortify your personal Qi.
Note: I discourage (actually, I’m personally against) taking vitamin supplements for zinc and iron. Therefore, when I say “consider a zinc-rich and iron-rich diet,” I mean stock up your diet (as in natural, whole foods) with zinc-rich and iron-rich foods. I’m not a fan of trying to achieve this goal with vitamin supplements. Red meat, oysters, chickpeas, lentils, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, pine nuts, and almonds offer a lot of zinc. Tofu, dark leafy greens, and most meats are rich in iron.
Finally, reduce your salt intake. A high-sodium diet can desensitize you from picking up on the more subtle, natural energies of the universe, and so can in turn desensitize your psychic sensitivity, intuition, and general detection abilities.
Warding Your Living Space
How important is this? I spent the first three very long episodes of Tinkering Bell [link to YouTube playlist] (the totally free Practica of Esoteric Craft online course [link to course landing page] you can work through) on spiritual sanitation of your living space. Be sure to check out the following:
- Expelling Malefic Attachments. This total mind, body, and spirit self-cleanse is meant to eradicate any string of bad luck, negativity in your life, remove hexes, exorcise unwanted spirit attachments, neutralize the evil eye, and detox from what Chinese feng shui masters would call poison arrows.
- Creating Sacred Space Part I. Harmonic Resonance. This is Part 1 of 2 videos on the architecture and design of sacred space. I would consider harmonic resonance to be the first and most fundamental point to creating and empowering sacred space. Specific topics covered will be sine wave oscillation resonant with the monad; Lissajous figures; Chladni figures; the Lo Shu magic square, mandalas, and sacred geometry.
- Creating Sacred Space Part II. Psychic Architecture and Esoteric Design Principles. Part 2 covers magnetism, orientation, water, and anchoring, which are critical points of consideration when creating and empowering sacred space.
Your boat will continue to fill with water, no matter how fast you dump out the rising level, if you don’t work on plugging up the hole. Likewise, you want to make sure your home is well fortified. Warding your living space and the principles instructed in the three hyperlinked Tinkering Bell videos are part of the preventative feng shui measures you take to preserve and maintain the health of personal Qi.
Feng shui, or in more mundane terms, your environment, could be the cause of many symptoms you’ve been experiencing, or why you seem to get depleted with energy more quickly than most. For a free introductory overview of Chinese feng shui, see Feng Shui Basics.
While the average person will consider what essentially amounts to interior décor, color design, and furniture rearranging for feng shui keyed to prosperity, health, and happiness, metaphysical practitioners will add sigil or talismanic magic to common feng shui practices. One example is the Eight Direction Home Protection Fu Talismans (PDF) that can be prepared to ward a metaphysical practitioner’s home.
This point’s relevance when we’re talking about personal Qi cultivation will depend on who you ask. If you’re asking me, then I would answer that ancestor veneration is important and very relevant to Qi cultivation.
In Eastern religious thought– and I phrase it generically like that because you’ll find the belief in most if not all of the Eastern mystical paths– a part of every soul remains behind, here on earth, occupying the spirit space in the material plane. Here I like to think of the analogy to dark matter vs. dark energy in space.
Your ancestral family line forms a distinct spirit enclave and these ancestral enclaves can possess or have the capacity to exert certain powers. They can exert influence over events in the material plane, in certain, limited conditions.
Ancestor veneration is how you cultivate and maintain the power of your ancestral line. When your ancestral line is powerful, it has the capability of exerting more influence on the material plane, and therefore can utilize their powers to, say, help heal sick members of the family, help increase family prosperity, help protect and safeguard you from demonic attacks, ward hexes, etc.
Thus, the mystical rationale follows that the stronger the powers of your ancestral line, the stronger your personal Qi, because your Qi is linked directly to your ancestral line. Burning offerings, honoring our dead, giving the space in our homes to our ancestors in the form of altars are ways we feed power to our own ancestral line.
Working with contemporary New Age vocabulary, you might draw a connection here to the law of attraction. I would like to say it’s more nuanced and layered than that, but you’re free to your own interpretation.
I hesitate to use the word “karma,” because that can be misleading, even though in Eastern religious thought, it would be considered karma. In the West, the law of karma is typically defined as cause-and-effect, which it is: you do good, so good will happen to you; you do bad, so bad will happen to you.
While that definition isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s also not the whole picture, and there are so many “exceptions to the rule” or condition precedents that often, the simplified rule of karmic causation gets negated, appears to be proven wrong, because good things happen to people who do bad (all the time) and bad things happen to people who do good (all the time).
So let’s sidestep the discussion of karma and just go with the term “beneficence.” To keep it simple.
Beneficence is a je ne sais quoi you emanate with. If we try to reduce it down to simple points of action, it’s when you exude optimism, when you’re more trusting of people, when you offer people the benefit of the doubt, when you demonstrate a spirit of charity.
The concept of beneficence discussed here is technically categorized under the principle of karma because when you emanate with beneficence, the effect is a strengthening and fortifying of your personal Qi, and with stronger personal Qi, you’re just going to go through life with better luck. If you were born less lucky (something natal astrology might help to reveal), then beneficence changes your fate and transforms you into someone who will have better luck.
Inevitably the question of intention comes up and whether intent has an impact. What if you’re doing good for self-interested reasons? Is that still considered karmically “good”?
Here, there is no attachment of subjective intention, good or evil, to the concept. Beneficence is a state of mind that translates into actions. It doesn’t matter what your motivation is, though at the same time, it does, because being crafty and sly about acting “good” isn’t beneficence. That would fall outside the scope of definition for what I’m talking about here.
Beneficence is the instinctive, thoughtless impulse to be generous and kind. Some people are born with it, but you can definitely nurture it into your persona. A while back I shared a Thing, “Benevolence and Your Book of 1,111 Acts,” which you can check out here. You can also read an excerpted chapter from The Tao of Craft, “Accumulating Good Deeds” (PDF).
Acts of charity, acts of compassion, and even speaking words that elevate and uplift others strengthen your personal Qi. In a classic esoteric Taoist text written by the Chinese alchemist Ge Hong, circa 316 to 317 A.D., one form of personal Qi cultivation that could help a practitioner achieve immortality (or spiritual transcendence) was the accumulation of good deeds, which was to say a practitioner must “extend love to all life.”
If you know you’re prone to ill physical health, depression, anxiety, or tend to be emotionally vulnerable, then your personal Qi may not be as balanced and strong as it could be. Incorporating simple practices of qi gong into your everyday life, dedicating even a few minutes per day to basic meditation, or taking a more holistic approach to your diet can bring about significant improvements to your wellbeing. A metaphysical practitioner might also want to consider feng shui practices and warding the living space so it’s well protected, ancestor veneration, and the Taoist practice of beneficence to further deepen the pool of personal power they can draw from for their metaphysical work.