In Tate Britain, my coat is over my arm, and my right hand is out scanning the Qi in the art works, especially the sculptures. I love that Paolozzi. On the Frank Auerbach, the paint is smeared on and piled up, crevices then piles an inch thick. I had not seen paint on canvas like it. Opposite is a Francis Bacon, study of a dog: I recognised it was his by the shape of the creature, and the peculiar shade of red round the bottom edge. Large parts of the canvas have no paint at all.

I was scanning at the 5Rhythms dancing last night. I scan with my right hand, give energy with my left, so if blessing I would raise my left hand. Both hand chakras do both, but the left is stronger at giving and the right is stronger at scanning. I had scanned before, but I got the idea here that one hand would be stronger at scanning.

I have a sceptic-rationalist explanation for this practice. I am applying my intuition to the art works, and I am using the sensation of heat or cold in my hand to make a non-verbal channel for my intuition to reach my consciousness. It is another way to respond to the art work.

Over coffee, Helen and I discussed whether intention is necessary to make something “art”. I do not think technical skill is necessary, that is craft, only, but “Fountain” was art because of Duchamp. I spotted two labels hanging from a tree, each with a word on, and wondered if that was accidental or whether it was “art”. Perhaps both: machine-made art has a human intention and human creator behind it, but if an object found by Duchamp is art, why not an object I notice myself? If it raises a response in me, similar to a response I might have to a found object in a gallery, does that make it art, or something else, just as valuable in that moment?

Back at Helen’s flat, after salmon and wine I gave my rationalist explanation of the scanning, and she asked why? I have noticed that I do not know what I like, only what I ought to like, or what it is permissible to like- permissible by me, of course, I have internalised my own bonds. Or, what I have learned that it is possible to like, I prefer to learn that from others, it is easier than noticing myself. So here am I noticing something which I love and value- scanning for Qi- and I need to create a rationalist explanation. Why? Why can I not just like it because I like it?

Because I am so terrified of insanity. I delayed transition for years because I imagined that it was not real, it was a fantasy, I was sliding down the slippery slope to a sexual fantasy. And- the female self is me in a way the male self never was. And- my intuitive self is me in a way the rationalist self is not, a deeper, realer me. I am still terrified, still craving the reassurance the rationalist explanation gives me, but trusting my instincts might fulfil me more.

Saying I am “scanning for Qi” is a verbal formulation applied to a spontaneous act, an act I find valuable. Perhaps I do not need that verbal formulation either. St Theophanes has his right hand up- what is he doing with it?

There was an Edwardian sculpture of children playing on a beach. The marble is beautiful, and the girl’s hand is so perfect. The artist has even caught a slight depression in the skin of the boy where the girl’s hand touches it, an effect which astounds and delights me. I can see why Pygmalion might fall in love with such a creation.

7 thoughts on “Scanning

  1. What we can love without asking “Why?” is very often food for the soul, the soul which bases itself in our solar plexus and rejoices in feelings, not words so much. So, when we get a doubtful feeling there, that could be the soul warning, “I would not recommend that.” As a right handed person, I am used to giving out with the right, and receiving with the left….and when the left side hurts, I begin to notice that I may be turning away goodness….

    Fear of insanity could just be another ego game? There is nothing insane in you, here, just now….sitting peacefully, blogging….but what feels like recognition often is a “thank you” from our souls, for understanding its pleasure in being nourished, with love and music and laughter and acts of piety….

    Thank you for your post!

    XXX 🙂


    • I am such a suspicious soul. “Why do I like this? What is wrong with it? What is bad about how I am, now? Where are the threats?” I get better.

      Scanning for Qi- or even just holding my hand out and noticing that it feels warm or cold- is not insane, and is not wrong. I wanted to do it, and immediately started judging, started asking Why. I respond instinctively, and then I pull back. My bonds are my own. Meditative practice helps. Listening to the breath, I can notice the monkey-mind- so I now notice when the judgment comes, rather than just accepting it.


  2. Thanks for this Clare, and for the link. When I do Tai Chi I get very strong sensations in my palms, so I know something’s happening at the level of the so called energetic body, but I’ mot sensitive enough to call this up at will. Very interesting.


    • Yes. There is something happening. I think it is possible to develop sensitivity by noticing when the feelings come, being open to them, and possibly by stilling yourself and trying to feel the energy. And maybe I should try T’ai Chi.


  3. What you call Qi I call mindfulness, a way to be fully present and open to self experience. I know that sounds a little funny, but too often I think we tend to ignore our body’s ability to receive trustworthy input. Anyone who has studied a martial art should be more aware of how the rote training helps us to get our mind ‘out of the way’ so that we may act and react according to our body’s natural intelligence long before our mind tries to get between us and dictate what is to be done.

    In the same way, being open to the experience that we call ‘art’ means harmonizing our minds with our bodies and being fully present (without our mind dictating to our bodies but merely sharing with) what we are rationally seeing, what we should be rationally feeling, what thoughts are rationally appropriate, and so on) to use what we bring to art to help us experience it. Because art isn’t about the artist or the context of the artist’s work, but about going on a journey, having an experience, becoming more or richer or gaining insight for it (forgive my sentence fragment). That’s why art requires some measure of craft – like a grammar – so that the audience has the means at their disposal to ‘get it’, to have an avenue of communication for this experience. And this often requires more from the audience than they may rationally bring with them… if they really want to ‘get it’ whatever the ‘it’ may be.

    Of course, great art overcomes our deficiencies and draws from our stimulated sense of awe and wonder to become a permanent resident in our minds through the power of the experience (architecture is particularly geared toward this technique), but sometimes the most subtle curve or sound or colour is the most powerful stimulus in awakening us to the beauty contained and then released by the work – a small thing of beauty which is, itself, a very powerful experience.

    What I don’t do is try to attribute these experiences to something ‘out there’ or some secretive ‘energy’ because there is neither evidence for its independent existence nor a reasonable explanation of mechanism to connect cause with effect. As unsexy as it may sound, I think what we’re dealing with involving these powerful experiences is… biology and neurology; this does not negate or reduce these experiences in any way but allows us the means to understand what is going on that is true for everyone everywhere all the time. Pedagogy based on this understanding I think would be far more helpful in teaching how to prepare ourselves and our students to bring our mindfulness more actively into our lives than going along with the notion of unsubstantiated mystical force at work.


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