A Student of the Forest: How John Platt Uses Qi Gong to Learn from Nature
A young sapling knows that its sources of strength lie below and above.
A tree buries its roots deep into fertile soil, channeling the vital nourishment that the earth provides. Above its base, intuitive branches grasp upward toward the heavens, seeking rich rays of sunshine that hold immense life-living energy.
Together, the blend of heaven and earth allows trees to grow and flourish. Trees are master alchemists that effortlessly channel the gifts of the cosmos to create stunning symphonies of natural beauty — symphonies that can play for hundreds or even thousands of years.
For lifelong Qi Gong practitioner John Platt, the wisdom of trees doesn’t just apply to members of the plant kingdom. Humans, too, can learn how to embody their innate gifts.
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In this blog article, we’ll share John Platt’s unique story as a student of nature, dedicated Qi Gong practitioner, and passionate teacher. Through his curiosity and openness, he’s found that many of life’s most precious lessons lie in the most silent of places.
For John, Qi Gong is a practice of self-discovery and cultivation, but that’s not why he was initially attracted to it. In his youth, his focus was more external.
As a young man, John discovered martial arts. He was immediately captivated by the artistic beauty and calm power embodied in the practice. He also liked the idea of cultivating skills to physically protect himself against other people, in case the necessity ever arose.
It didn’t take long for John to realize that most threats aren’t external, but internal. At the time, he noticed that stress was his greatest challenge. He also saw that Tai Chi and Qi Gong provided invaluable tools for releasing stress and cultivating harmony and equilibrium within himself.
Throughout his thirties and forties, John continued to be a dedicated practitioner, constantly seeking to grow. He learned that the more he could relax and let go, the more he could feel the Qi within his body. The more he could feel his Qi, the more he could intentionally work with it to cultivate the qualities he was seeking.
As John entered his sixties, he discovered that Qi Gong is an amazing practice for continually nurturing youthful energy and vitality. Since most health ailments are the result of stagnant energy, he used Qi Gong to activate and circulate his energy on a daily basis.
Throughout his journey as a practitioner, John had many teachers. For him, each teacher offered a unique perspective that could be integrated into his own practice. In his own words, each teacher was like a mine for a particular precious mineral. One teacher might be like a gold mine. Another may specialize in silver. And a third may be rich in diamonds.
From each of his teachers, John integrated the most salient pearls of wisdom that resonated with him. Over time, this helped his own practice grow and evolve into a style that was uniquely his. It also helped him to understand the lessons from one additional teacher — trees.
The Wisdom And Energy Of Trees
Within Qi Gong communities, John is known for his appreciation of trees. He has also become known for his gift of making their language more accessible and understood by fellow humans.
John’s fascination with trees started in his youth. As a child, John spent a lot of time camping and in nature. To him, the forest felt like home. When he sat with himself in stillness, he could sense a strange, intoxicating beauty surrounding and enveloping him. As he recalls, “I felt like the trees were protecting me.”
Years later when John started practicing Qi Gong, his connection with trees was rekindled in a powerful way. Everything he learned about nature and energy aligned with his earliest experiences in the forest. With the help and support of his human teachers, he explored the gifts and lessons that nature had in store for him.
John grew to view the trees as a telling metaphor of human potential and vitality. Trees rely on their connection to the earth and heavens. During the day, energy moves upward from the roots through the trunk and into the branches and leaves. At night, the energy gathered from the sun flows downward along the same energetic and biochemical pathway as it returns to the base. Over time, the tree’s energy continues to gather and become refined.
As humans, we can experience this same process if we attune our awareness to heaven and earth. In John’s Qi Gong classes, he often focuses on helping students cultivate a strong connection to these two sources of energy.
Because humans don’t have physical roots like trees, it can be easy to forget our intimate relationship with the earth. However, that doesn’t mean that we should neglect its importance.
Through various Qi Gong exercises, we can learn how to harness vital energy from the earth, as well as release old energy that no longer serves us. This allows us to cultivate groundedness, emotional stability, physical health, and a deep knowing that we are worthy. When we are truly one with the earth, there is nothing that can shake us.
As energy moves upward through the body like water through the trunk of a tree, it becomes part of us. Or rather, we become more fully a part of the earth. Above, the energy of the heavens pours down upon us, blending with the earth energy flowing within. Yang from above (heaven) and Yin from below (earth) are the lifeblood of our energetic body. When we circulate these energies throughout the Microcosmic orbit, they become refined and purified, elevating all parts of our being to their highest potential.
In addition to mirroring this process that trees teach us, we can also tap directly into the energy that trees have already cultivated. This is the focus of much of John’s work as a teacher. He shares his practices and techniques in great detail in a book that he wrote with his wife, Mary: The Five Element Orchard: QiGong Practices for Harnessing Energy from Trees.
Learning Through Teaching
Like many dedicated Qi Gong students, there came a point when John wanted to share the practice with others.
He decided to teach Qi Gong in order to help others discover the tools that have had such a significant impact on his own life. With decades of high school teaching experience behind him, he was already intimately familiar with the process of teaching.
The act of teaching is one of his most powerful teachers for him. He loves attuning to the energies of his students and adjusting his lessons to meet the needs of his class. He pays attention to the way in which students receive and understand his instructions, and uses that feedback to constantly improve.
John often employs the concept of transfer, which is the process of applying students’ existing skills and knowledge to help them understand new material. In other words, instead of teaching with a blank slate, John explains how his lessons relate to knowledge that his students have already learned.
For example, to explain the concept of harnessing nature’s energy, he brings up the image of a surfer gliding gracefully along an ocean wave. If he can help his students imagine a surfer, it becomes much easier to help them understand the concept of energy and flow. Not only are stories and metaphors helpful for learning, but they also add more depth, excitement, and nuance to his classes.
When asked if he has any advice for teachers of any kind, he responds with simple clarity: “Learn to fill up your toolbox and don’t try to be like anyone else. Just be yourself, and have fun with your students.”
To learn more about John, his classes, or to contact him directly, please visit his website at: https://www.peacefulpostures.com/
Or you can buy John and Mary’s book, The Five Element Orchard, on Amazon. (by the way, it has a Forward written by Lee Holden.
At Holden QiGong, we feel grateful that John is part of our ‘Qi Community’ and appreciate his willingness to share his story. He often teaches well-loved Master Classes for our Holden QiGong Teacher Trainees.
If you want to learn more about Qi Gong or give it a try yourself, be sure to check out our free two-week Qi Gong trial.