I spend a lot more time in front of a screen these days—using my computer, my smartphone, my iPad. Although I am enjoying all the things I can do with this technology, it can sometimes make my head feel heavy, and I am reminded that many people suffer from various ailments from spending too much time in front of a screen. It can contribute to anxiety, stress, insomnia, even physical ailments such as headaches and constipation, among others.
That’s what happens when the body’s ki (qi, chi), or life energy, pools in your head without circulating to the rest of your body. Energy must flow smoothly in a certain way in order for us to be healthy. Your heart generates fire energy, which should flow down into your abdomen and then up to your kidneys. Your kidneys should cool that energy and create water energy that flows up to your head. The flow of energy in this manner creates balance—both physical and emotional—the “fire in the belly” of a person of action and the “cool head’ of a great decision-maker. I call it “Water Up, Fire Down.”
When we pay too much attention to a screen or other things outside of ourselves, our energy collects in our head, creating a lot of extra thoughts. Our extra thoughts create more thoughts whirling around in our minds in an endless cycle, while our lower body loses energy and our energy flow becomes the reverse of Water Up, Fire Down. It can cause you to disconnect from yourself, as well as the earth and the other life forms on it, losing interest and concern for them.
There are many ways to counteract this effect, but one simple one is to focus on the part of your body that’s the furthest from your head—your feet. How often do you ever actually think about your feet? What would happen if you did? Well, let’s try it.
Try standing up on both feet right now. If possible, remove your shoes and socks. Imagine your feet are stuck to the floor without any space between. If you stand this way and quietly focus on the soles of your feet, at a certain point, you will feel as if the weight of your whole body is in your soles. Then feel that weight being sent to the earth beneath you, while at the same time feel the strength of the earth holding up your weight. Ground the soles of your feet to the earth.
This feeling of weight is not merely a physical sense. It is a vivid sensation of life, of being present. It is the feeling of “Here I am, I’m alive,” and of gratitude and humility toward the earth. This feeling sustains your body and life, and comes from deep within your heart. It’s only available when you are living in the moment.
I stay still and sometimes I lift up both hands and hold them in front of my chest as through I am holding a huge jar or have my arms around a large tree. This is a complete kigong posture. If I stand like this, feeling the soles of my feet as I make my breath steady and deep, my whole body becomes filled with energy. If I do this for just five minutes a day, I can create and maintain healthy Water Up, Fire Down energy circulation. I can return to my work with clarity and a sense of calm. With this I can easily counter the effects of too much time in front of a screen.